The Ruhrtriennale (compound of Ruhr and triennale "lasting 3 years") is an annual music and arts festival in the Ruhr area of Germany which runs between mid-August and mid-October. It was founded in 2002 by the government of North Rhine-Westphalia with Gerard Mortier, the impresario and former artistic director of the Salzburg Festival, as its founding director. The festival is organized into three-year cycles, each with its own theme and under different artistic directors.


Each yearly festival comprises 80 performances of 30 productions. Its central feature are the Kreationen (creations) – interdisciplinary productions uniting contemporary developments in fine art, pop, jazz and concert music. Another continuous element is the concert series, Century of Song, dedicated to the art of songwriting. The locations of the Ruhrtriennale are industrial heritage sites of the Ruhr area, which have been transformed into venues for music, theatre, literature and dance. The festival's main hall is the Jahrhunderthalle, a former early-20th-century power station in Bochum. Other locations include the Zeche Zollverein colliery in Essen, the Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord and the Maschinenhalle Zweckel in Gladbeck.

Artists who have appeared at the festival include Ariane Mnouchkine, Peter Brook, Bill Viola, Patrice Chéreau, Ilya Kabakov, Peter Sellars, Christian Boltanski, Bill Frisell, Patti Smith, Elvis Costello, Akram Khan, Cecilia Bartoli and Thomas Hampson.

Cycles and directors

  • 2002–2004 was directed by Gerard Mortier.
  • 2005–2007 was directed by Jürgen Flimm and took as its theme the relationship between industrialisation and the arts, focusing in successive years on the Romantic, Baroque, and Medieval eras. The center piece was a new production of Bernd Alois Zimmermann's opera Die Soldaten, which later travelled to New York. Following the death in 2007 of Marie Zimmermann, the appointed director for the 2008 to 2010 seasons, Jürgen Flimm, stayed on as artistic director for another year. The 2008 theme was Aus der Fremde (From abroad).
  • 2009–2011 was directed by Willy Decker and took as its central theme Urmomente (Primal moments), the relationship between creativity and religion, focusing in successive years on Jewish, Islamic, and Buddhist culture.
  • 2012–2014 was directed by Heiner Goebbels.
  • 2015–2017 Johan Simons picked the theme Seid umschlungen (be embraced) from Schiller's "Ode to Joy", as "a gesture of social, political and geographical embracement".
  • 2018–2020 is directed by Stefanie Carp and Christoph Marthaler.[1]



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