Henrik Schaefer is a regular fixture on the podium at opera houses and symphony orchestras across the world, proving himself an engaged partner with strong musical ideas. The Bochum-born musician started his conducting career as an assistant to Claudio Abbado and served as Music Director of the Gothenburg Opera from 2014 until the end of the 2019/20 season.
Following his debut at the house in 2007 he led the company in lauded productions of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute, Strauss’ Daphne, Thomas’ Hamlet and most recently with Madame Butterfly. His commitment to unknown romantic repertoire is demonstrated in concerts, opera productions and first recordings of re-discovered works by composers such as Elfrida Andrée, Wilhelm Stenhammar, Joachim Raff and August Klughardt.
From 2004 to 2011 Henrik Schaefer was Principal Guest Conductor of the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra, and from 2007 to 2013 he was Chief Conductor of the Wermland Opera Karlstad, where he found international recognition through his performances of the complete Ring cycle using historical instruments. For his performance of Parsifal, which marked his debut at the house, he already conducted extensive research into the performance practice of string instruments in the 19th century.
As Music Director designate of the Stockholm Folkopera, he initiated the founding of a period instrument orchestra for his first production, taking his passion for the romantic performance practice another step further.
International guest appearances include the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic, Mozarteumorchester Salzburg, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, New Japan Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Antwerp Symphony. In addition, he led productions at the Leipzig Opera (The Marriage of Figaro), the Hong Kong Opera (The Flying Dutchman) as well as at the Vienna Volksoper (The Magic Flute), the Stockholm Folkoperan (Massenet’s Don Quichotte), and in 2020 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre (La Traviata with the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra.
Henrik Schaefer studied viola at the Folkwang University of Arts in Essen as well as with Ulrich Koch and Kim Kashkashian in Freiburg. In 1991 he was made the youngest member of the Berlin Philharmonic at 22 years of age, performing with the great conductors of the day including Carlos Kleiber, Sergiu Celibidache, Ricardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, Lorin Maazel and Bernard Haitink. During this time he studied conducting from 1994 to 1998 at the University of Music and Theatre Leipzig with Volker Rohde. In 2000 Claudio Abbado named him as his assistant at the Berlin Philharmonic, and he increasingly supported the Maestro in performances of repertoire including Tristan and Isolde, Parsifal, Falstaff as well as the symphonies of Mahler and Bruckner. Following Abbado’s departure from Berlin in 2003, Henrik Schaefer decided to dedicate himself totally to conducting – a decision that was quickly followed by the success of his performance of The Rite of Spring with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and the Leipzig Ballet (documented on DVD for the Arthaus label).
The conductor has an ongoing commitment to supporting young musicians and singers, including work at the Dutch National Opera Academy and the Hanyang University in Seoul as well as his current position as Artistic Director of the study programme Master of Orchestra Performance at Gothenburg University.
This biography is to be reproduced without any changes, omissions or additions, unless expressly authorised by the artist management.