Born in Miranda de Ebro (Spain), Calixto Bieito currently lives in Basel. He studied Spanish literature and history of art at the Universitat de Barcelona, stage direction at the Institut del Teatre de Barcelona and performance art at the Escuela de Arte Dramático in Tarragona.
His artistic profile is rooted in his early work. He was a stage director at the Teatre Romea in Barcelona for ten years, organised the Festival Internacional de las Artes de Castilla y León in Salamanca and created the Barcelona Internacional Teatre, a worldwide forum for projects of artists and theatres. The first music work he staged was Schönberg’s Pierrot lunaire, succeeded by the zarzuela La verbena de la Paloma at the Teatro Tivoli and Carmen at the Festival in Peralada.
Following adaptations of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in Salzburg (2001) and Hamlet in Edinburgh (2002), and creating several productions in Hanover, he attracted attention with a highly controversial account of Die Entführung aus dem Serail at the Komische Oper in Berlin (2004). These productions rapidly established his fame and notoriety as one of Europe’s foremost directors, hailed and hated with zeal and ardour.
In drama as much as in opera it is a spirit of uncompromising contemporaneity that marks Calixto Bieito’s theatrical approach. Visions of high tension and energy lead directly to the centre of drama and conflict. Berlin’s Entführung was kept in the repertoire until 2018, but his years of Sturm und Drang were long gone by then. His artistic interests have always been as manifold as their implementations. Of late, he has increasingly centred on contemporary authors, including Jonathan Little and Karl Ove Knausgård, whose works he recently staged in Bergen and Antwerp.
Calixto Bieito has directed numerous productions of operas, from L’incoronazione di Poppea (Zurich) and The Fairy Queen (Stuttgart), Carmen and La forza del destino (at London’s ENO), through such 20th-century masterpieces as Schönberg’s Moses und Aron (Dresden) and Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten (Zurich/Berlin/Madrid), to contemporary works, particularly Aribert Reimann’s Lear (Paris/Florence) and Héctor Parra’s Les Bienveillantes (Antwerp).
Guiding us far beyond opera, over the past few years Calixto Bieito has created remarkable scenic accounts of several works of religious music, with more to come: Britten’s War Requiem (Basel/Hamburg/Oslo), Verdi’s Messa da Requiem (Hamburg), Gesualdo’s Madrigals (Hamburg), J. S. Bach’s St. John Passion (Bilbao), Monteverdi’s Vespro delle Beata Vergine (Mannheim) and Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s Elias (Vienna).
In 2009, Calixto Bieito was honoured by the Kulturstiftung Pro Europa in Basel with the European Culture Award. Moreover, he has received prizes in Dublin, Edinburgh, Munich, London and Bilbao, as well as Italy’s Premio Franco Abbiati and a number of Spanish accolades, among them the Premio Ciudad de Barcelona, Premios Líricos Campoamor, Premios Opera XXI and Premios Ópera Actual.
Calixto Bieito has been the artistic director of Bilbao’s Teatro Arriaga since 2017. His rediscovery of two Basque composers highlighted the first seasons. He has staged productions of Arriaga’s Los esclavos felices and Usandizaga’s Mendi-Mendyan.
Photo: Monika Rittershaus