Günther Schneider-Siemssen

Günther Schneider-Siemssen (c) Ellinger
Günther Schneider-Siemssen (c) Ellinger

Günther Schneider-Siemssen was born in Augsburg in 1926 and died in Vienna in 2015. He is regarded as one of the most significant stage designers of the 20th century and had a major and lasting impact on opera. As well as designing sets, he had a particular passion for lighting design and the technological means of its realization. He defined the stage as a ‘cosmic space’ that he could create by means of ‘painting with light’ and projections.

Günther Schneider-Siemssen spent his childhood and youth in Munich. He originally wanted to become a conductor, but following the advice of Clemens Krauss he trained as a set designer at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. From 1951 to 1954 he was principal stage designer at the Salzburg State Theatre and from 1954 to 1962 at the Bremen Theatre.

From 1960 he worked with Herbert von Karajan at the Vienna State Opera and from 1962 to 1986 he was the head of stage design for the Austrian Federal Theatres. He worked with Karajan at the Salzburg Festival from 1965 and from 1967 also at the Salzburg Easter Festival, where he was responsible for all the stage designs up to 1990 (except the 1987 Festival). He also enjoyed an international career as a stage designer at opera houses in Europe, the USA, Israel and South Africa. In 1998 he was awarded the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art.