The Munich Biennale is organized by the Department of Arts and Culture of the City of Munich and is one of the leading festivals in the world for world premieres of contemporary music theater. The composer Hans Werner Henze, who founded the Biennale in 1988, envisioned the festival in particular as a platform for young, up-and-coming composers. His intention was to provide new music theater with a new repertoire, and by doing so to ensure its future. Works by, among others, Adriana Hölszky, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Jörg Widmann, Violeta Dinescu, Marco Stroppa, and Tania León celebrated their world premieres.
In the year 1996 Peter Ruzicka, composer, conductor, and former intendant at Staatsoper Hamburg, took over as artistic director of the Biennale. Ruzicka, who came up with a guiding idea for every edition of the festival, granted commissions for compositions and librettos to, among others, Moritz Eggert, Helmut Krausser, Toshio Hosokawa, Mauricio Sotelo, Chaya Chernowin, Durs Grünbein, Sarah Nemtsov, Enno Poppe, Marc Andre, Marcel Beyer and Klaus Lang, and he also placed a focus on multimedia music theater forms, for example, the internet opera “Orpheus Kristall” by Manfred Stahnke. In addition, Ruzicka expanded the festival’s accompanying program by adding numerous discussion and intermediation formats.
In 2016 for the first time a team, Daniel Ott and Manos Tsangaris, became artistic directors of the Biennale. Their concept for the program examines forms of contemporary composing and staging at the beginning of the 21st century, and investigates the possible social functions and significance of music theater. And so, the new team of artistic directors draws up for the individual festival editions explicit thematic search fields such as “Private Matter” or “Point of NEW Return,” and invites the participating artists to develop their concepts based on the contents of the issues and inquiries. As part of the three past Biennales (of which the 2020 edition, due to the Corona pandemic, lasted for more than one year), productions, performances, and installations were created, which were presented on stages, in exhibition spaces, greenhouses, public swimming pools, municipal public spaces, private apartments in Munich, and at Lake Starnberg. The music theater works that had their world premieres here are frequently created as co-productions with other opera houses, theaters, and festivals in German-speaking countries and Europe, and were composed for the most part by young international artists such as David Fennessy, Marco Štorman, Simon Steen-Andersen, Clara Ianotta, Meriel Price, Blanka Rádóczy, Ole Hübner / The Navidsons / paranormal φeer group; Brigitta Muntendorfer; Deville Cohen; Davide Carnevali, Stefan Prins, Yasutaki Inamori, Gerhild Steinbuch, Ondřej Adámek, Trond Reinholdtsen, Anja Hilling, Fabià Santcovsky, Christiane Pohle, and Mirko Borscht. Discussion events, symposiums, and the “Salon of Wondering and Obligations/Views” will accompany the productions.