Sebastian Terfloth Semperoper at Night

“Those who work professionally, need Criticism.” -Interview with Ingolf Huhn

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Theater director Ingolf Huhn knows the requirements for modern leaders from his personal experience. The function of the director combines and contains multiple responsibilities: economic, organizational, and especially artistic. But how do you create a trusting culture of feedback when you are solely responsible? “Those who work professionally, need criticism. They need criticism in terms of feedback. That’s the only way it works. For me it is difficult to get honest feedback by the ensemble. Due to my position, people are more cautious with me. I have to tease out the feedback much more. I must encourage the actors to say what they think.” Criticism is not always easy to formulate, particularly for personal artistic work. You have to keep it strict and avoid a laissez-faire attitude. You have the responsibility to ensure that there is a result.” In the theater business, various leadership styles can lead to productive results. Huhn prefers a collaborative approach, “I develop the piece together with the cast. There are directors who handle it like in a puppet theatre. They say you go from left to right and make this gesture. But there are also those who attempt to develop their approach based on the vigour of the actors. This is a question of age. Nevertheless, I know what I want. I know what the picture should look like.”

Different artistic personalities with their own ideas who work together is blessing and curse at the same time, “Each actor has their own idea of the score. And it must indeed become their own. It does not make a lot of sense to train the actors do something they do not want.” It is the goal not only to practice the piece but to become one with it. To allow new perspectives, “I depend on people wanting the same thing as I and that we do it together. But sometimes a change of perspective is necessary. The performers on stage can´t see what I see and therefore they may not understand my idea.” Ingolf Huhn discovered his feelings for the theater scene early and those feelings have not abated to this day, “Music has such emotional power. I had this feeling even as a small child. I went to operas and operettas and was completely shaken, filled with what I felt. If you are a part of it, then it is even stronger. This is an emotional process, as if one falls in love, where you also cannot really ask why it happened. I knew it would be the ultimate dream if opera and musical theater could be my profession.” After his studies and numerous professional positions, the long-standing practice is an important point in Huhn’s theatrical career. Exercise leading to mastery started under the guidance of Ruth Berghaus, “Master classes are a great invention from the Renaissance. Dürer and Cranach have given workshops where their students painted the same way as Dürer and Cranach and thereby learned something.” Experience is the key to success, “In the beginning, when I was young, I was an assistant director. When I made my first productions I was almost overwhelmed by the power that came with the profession. I am the one who says, that’s what it is going to be. You are solely responsible. “

Since 2010, Ingolf Huhn has been the Managing Director of the Eduard-Winterstein Theatre in Annaberg-Buchholz. Despite the multiple challenges of being a director he has never lost his artistic ideal, “You can feel whether theater directors are being honest. Honestly searching. What we’re doing on stage is not about providing answers. For example on the question of the meaning of everything. We are not telling the audience, we know the answer, here it is. The trick is to rephrase the question so that it makes sense to follow up on it.”

Please access the full interview here (German only)

Picture Source: Sebastian Terfloth, Semperoper at night via Wikimedia Commons


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