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 since 2014 has been Music Director of the Gothenburg Opera House, one of the leading opera houses in Scandinavia.
Following his debut at the house in 2007 he led the company in lauded successful productions of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute, Strauss’ Daphne, Thomas’ Hamlet and most recently in the 2018/19 season with Madame Butterfly. In addition, he has introduced a series of innovative concert formats: for example the “Kom som du är” (Come as you are) series which offers a introduction to the world of classical music; or the “360° Concerts” themed around an opera’s subject, where audiences can immerse themselves in music for hours. 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, with he made his debut at the house, he conducted extensive research into the performance practice of string instruments in the 19th century.
His international career also developed during this time, making appearances with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, the Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest, the Mozarteumorchester Salzburg, the Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra, the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, New Japan Philharmonic, the 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) and the Stockholm Folkoperan (Massenet’s Don Quichotte). In the 19/20 season he will conduct works including La Traviata with the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre as well as La Bohème and Tosca in Gothenburg.
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 und 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.
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