The Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier since 1973

Facts - Names - Dates


  • September 9, 1973
    First "Ballett-Werkstatt" (Workshop)
    (A Sunday morning traditional workshop given by John Neumeier)
  • September 30, 1973
    First ballet performance of The Hamburg Ballet under the direction of John Neumeier:
    "Divertimento No. 15", "Allegro Brillante", "Désir", "Jeu de cartes"
  • January 6,  1974
    First premiere: "Romeo and Juliet"
  • May 12,  1974
    First world premiere: "Meyerbeer-Schumann"
  • June 28, 1974
    First tour: Granada - XXIII. Festival Internacional de Musica y Danza
  • June 14 - 22, 1975
    First Hamburg Ballet-Days
  • June 14, 1975
    World premiere of the "Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler"
  • June 22, 1975
    First "Nijinsky Gala"
  • January 1, 1978
    Foundation of The School of The Hamburg Ballet
  • November 5, 1979
    The School moves in its own building
  • November 13, 1980
    "Skizzen zur Matthäus-Passion" (World Premiere)
  • June 25, 1981
    "Saint Matthew Passion" (World Premiere)
  • October 2, 1981
    Ballet Gala for the opening of the Theater am Spielbudenplatz (Operettenhaus)
  • September 26, 1987
    World premiere of the movie and television film "Lady of the Camellias"
  • Mai 9, 1988
    Benefice-Gala for the Ballettzentrum
  • January 22, 1989
    "Peer Gynt" (World Premiere), commissioned score of the composer
    Alfred Schnittke
  • September 23, 1989
    Official inauguration of the "Ballettzentrum" (4 ballet studios for the company, 5 for the school and a boarding school)

Ballettzentrum Hamburg

  • November 20, 1995
    "Odyssey" (World Premiere), commissioned score of the composer
  • Season 1997/1998
    25 years - THE HAMBURG BALLET – John Neumeier
  • January 1, 1998
    20 years - The School of THE HAMBURG BALLET
  • September 23, 1999
    10 years - Ballettzentrum Hamburg - John Neumeier
  • July 6, 1999
    THE HAMBURG BALLET organize in collaboration with Moët Hennessy Germany a new choreographic competition: PRIX Dom Pérignon
  • Season 2003/2004
    30 years - THE HAMBURG BALLET – John Neumeier
  • June 7, 2007
    John Neumeier was named an honorary citizen of the city of Hamburg
  • January 1, 2008
    30 years - The School of THE HAMBURG BALLET
  • September 23, 2009
    20 years - Ballettzentrum Hamburg – John Neumeier
  • December 1, 2009
    40 years Ballet Director John Neumeier.
    On December 1st, 1969 Ulrich Erfurth appointed Neumeier Director of Ballet in Frankfurt
  • September 15, 2011
    National Youth Ballet founded
  • December 4, 2011
    "Liliom" (World Premiere), commissioned score of the composer
    Michel Legrand
  • Season 2012/2013
    40 years - THE HAMBURG BALLET – John Neumeier
  • June 29, 2014
    "Tatjana" (World Premiere), commissioned score of the composer
    Lera Auerbach

History of the Opera in Hamburg

The Hamburg Ballet
by Horst Koegler

One of the first examples of German civic opera, the Hamburg Goosemarket Opera, established in 1678, offered its clients regular ballet performances. These seem to have been rather crude, despite being performed to music by such eminent composers as Jean-Baptiste Lully and Georg Telemann. When the opera house closed its doors in 1738, theater performances were given by visiting troupes, who offered ballets among their mixed bills of operas, musical plays and drama. The ballet "Don Juan" performed in 1769 at the Ackermannsche Komödienhaus seems to have been the famous work by Christoph Willibald Gluck.

Not until the Hamburg municipal theater had a ballet company of its own, however, could Hamburg audiences see the standard Romantic repertory danced by such guest stars as Marie Taglioni, Lucille Grahn, Fanny Cerrito and Fanny Elssler (who made Hamburg her residence for a few years after she retired from the stage). They were followed by Katti Lanner, who worked in Hamburg during the 1850s and 1860s. She developed into a prolific choreographer and led the Hamburg company on its first tour to Berlin in 1865, when it gave twenty performances.

For the rest of the nineteenth century, the Hamburg ballet repertory consisted of occasional performances of "Coppelia", "Die Puppenfee" and other works from the Vienna Hassreiter-Bauer school. Even after World War I, the company, now named the Hamburg State Opera Ballet and led by Helga Swedlund and Erika Hanka, changed little. Nor did Hamburg demonstrate any special enthusiasm for ballet. In the years after World War II, when, again directed by Swedlund, the ballet company was considered mainly an adjunct to the opera. The company briefly changed direction between 1949 and 1951 under Dore Hoyer, one of the leading figures in the German modern dance movement, but this experiment proved frustrating for both the dancers and the public.

The company grew in size and ability when Rolf Liebermann was appointed general manager of the Hamburg State Opera in 1959. He collaborated with Peter van Dyk in directing the company, and although van Dyk's choreography proved unmemorable, he nevertheless built up a company capable of performing George Balanchine's ballets. In fact, the Hamburg State Opera Ballet became the first European company with a solid Balanchine repertory. This approach culminated in the city's official celebration of Stravinsky's eightieth birthday in June 1962, with the composer himself in the pit conducting the company's production of Apollo, triple billed with "Orpheus" and "Agon", all choreographed by Balanchine.

When van Dyk left in 1970, standards deteriorated until John Neumeier was appointed ballet director in 1973. Since then, the company has multiplied its performances acquired a broad and varied repertory of classics and contemporary works, gained some performing spaces outside the opera house, and considerably enlarged the affiliated ballet school. Today The Hamburg Ballet possesses a character all its own, thanks to Neumeier's dramatically oriented aesthetic sense.

Neumeier's flair for the dramatic and the original clearly shows in his unconventional stagings of some of the classics. His "Swan Lake", for example, is set in the court of the mad King Ludwig II of Baveria, and his "Sleeping Beauty" is dreamed by a Prince in blue jeans. The panoramic view of his Mahler cycle and the thematic groupings of his mixed programs also reflect an original vision.

Many of John Neumeier's works for The Hamburg Ballet have been large-scale undertakings. His staging of Bach's complete "Saint Matthew Passion" started its life in Hamburg's landmark St. Michaelis Church and although is now performed in the opera house the ballet has through the world as a signature piece oft he company. His ballet inspired by the plays of Shakespeare form a major group of works in the Hamburg repertory, these include "Romeo and Juliet", set to the Prokofiev score; "Hamlet", set to music by Michael Tippet; "Othello", set to music by Arvo Pärt and Alfred Schnittke and "As You Like It". Other ambitious projects have been Peer Gynt, an original score by Schnittke, and commissioned works by Lera Auerbach ("The Little Mermaid") and Michel Legrand ("Liliom"), and "Odyssey", to music by George Couroupos. The solidly Neumeier-based repertory is supplemented by a selection of ballets by John Cranko, Balanchine, Mats Ek (who staged his sensational modern production of "The Sleeping Beauty" in 1996) and others.

The company gives regular workshop matinees in which Neumeier lectures on and demonstrates various aspects of his craft. During The Hamburg Ballet Days at the end of each season, the company presents a summary of its work, culminating in the Nijinsky Galas arranged each year around a different subject.

In 1989 the Hamburg State Opera opened the Ballettzentrum Hamburg – John Neumeier, a complex housing various studios for company use, the school, and a boarding school. With this strong base, The Hamburg Ballet has continued to grow.


Important theatres where The Hamburg Ballet
has performed, among others:

  • Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow
  • Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires
  • Deutsche Oper Berlin
  • Deutsche Staatsoper, Berlin
  • Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona
  • Teatro La Fenice, Venice
  • Salzburger Festspiele
  • State Theater Lincoln Center, New York
  • Marinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg
  • NHK Hall, Tokyo
  • Opéra Garnier, Paris
  • Teatro Communale (Maggio Musicale Fiorentino), Florenz

Ballets filmed with the Company

  • Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler
  • String Quintet in C-Major by Franz Schubert
  • Scenes of Childhood
  • Lady of the Camellias - available on DVD
  • Othello
  • Illusions - like "Swan Lake" - available on DVD
  • Death in Venice - available on DVD
  • Saint Matthew Passion - available on DVD
  • The Little Mermaid - available on DVD
  • Christmas Oratorio I-VI - available on DVD
    and several "Ballett-Workshop" - available on DVD and on iTunes

Books - in German

  • John Neumeier Unterwegs
    Horst Koegler
    Agora (1972)
  • John Neumeier und das Hamburger Ballett
    Text: John Neumeier | Photos: Joachim Flügel
    Christians Verlag (1977)
  • John Neumeier Traumwege
    Text: John Neumeier | Photos: Joachim Flügel
    Christians Verlag (1980)
  • Matthäus-Passion - Fotografien und Texte zum Ballett
    John Neumeier
    Albrecht Knaus Verlag (1983)
  • 10 Jahre - John Neumeier und das Hamburger Ballett
    Christians Verlag (1983)
  • Marianne Kruuse
    Hamburger Ballett Verlag Günter Frark (1986)
  • Max Midinet
    Hamburger Ballett Verlag Günter Frark (1986)
  • Beatrice Cordua
    Hamburger Ballett Verlag Günter Frark (1987)
  • François Klaus
    Hamburger Ballett Verlag Günter Frark (1988)
  • Colleen Scott - Ivan Liska
    Hamburger Ballett Verlag Günter Frark (1990)
  • 20 Jahre - John Neumeier und das Hamburg Ballett
    Wolfgang Willaschek
    Christians Verlag (1993)
  • My Favourite Pictures for John
    Photos: Holger Badekow
    Blackwell Wissenschaftsverlag (1998)
  • John Neumeier
    Silvia Poletti (Italian)
    L'Epos (Italien, 2004)
  • Kylián/Ek/Neumeier
    Silvia Poletti (Italian)
    RED Book Collection (Italian, 2006)
  • John Neumeier – In Bewegung
    Text: John Neumeier
    Edited by Stephan Mettin
    Collection Rolf Heyne
  • John Neumeier. Bilder eines Lebens
    John Neumeier. Images from a Life
    Horst Koegler (German / English)
    Edel Germany (2010)
  • John Neumeier. Trente ans de ballets à l'Opéra de Paris
    Jacqueline Thuilleux (French)
    Editions Gourcuff Gradenigo (2010)
  • John Neumeier in St. Petersburg
    Natalia Zozulina (Russian)
    Adaborg (St. Petersburg, 2012)

40 years of John Neumeier in Hamburg mean:

120 ballets by John Neumeier
60 ballets by guest choreographers

421 dancers

Pointe Shoes
About 50.000 pairs of pointshoes were used

Currently about 13.000 costumes are in the costume store of THE HAMBURG BALLET.

40 years – 30 countries – 4 continents

1. Spain

11. Romania


2. Israel

12. Switzerland

22. The Netherlands

3. Italy

13. Argentina

23. Greece

4. Luxemburg

14. Brazil

24. Ireland

5. Germany

15. Russia

25. Sweden

6. France

16. USA

26. Hong Kong

7. Poland

17. Canada

27. China

8. Austria

18. Norway

28. Czech Republic

9. Belgium

19. Japan

29. Monaco

10. Finland

20. Hungary

30. Australia

Guest companies
26 ballet companies performed as guests of THE HAMBURG BALLET

Jil Sander
Giorgio Armani
Will Quadflieg
Leonard Bernstein
Michel Legrand
Marion Countess Dönhoff
Christoph Eschenbach
Margrethe II (Denmark)
Caroline von Monaco
Peter Schmidt
Maurice Béjart
Eva Wagner




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