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Michael Schindhelm grew up in the former GDR and completed his Abitur with an emphasis on chemistry. He studied at the Voronezh State University in the former USSR graduating with a master's degree in quantum chemistry. From 1984 to 1986 he started his work as assistant professor for the "Zentralinstitut für physikalische Chemie" of the East Berlin Academy of Science where he worked in the department of theoretical chemistry (director: Lutz Zülicke) along with the current German chancellor Angela Merkel. He then worked as translator, author, and dramatic advisor until 1990.
In 1990, Schindhelm became advisor to the theater manager in Nordhausen, and then director of the Theater Nordhausen Loh-Orchester Sondershausen Foundation. In 1992 he was appointed theatre director in Gera. From 1994 to 1996 he was founding Director General of the theater and opera house Theater & Philharmonie Thueringen in Gera and Altenburg. From 1996 to 2006 he acted as director of the Theater Basel (Switzerland), performing opera, drama, and ballet. Theater Basel was “theatre of the year 1999” in the German-speaking countries and received the Bavarian Theatre Award in the same year and in 2001. From 1997 to 2005 he served also as president of the symphonic orchestra Sinfonieorchester Basel. In April 2005 he was appointed general director of the Opernstiftung (opera foundation) in Berlin. He acted as the first Director General of the newly founded Opernstiftung Berlin comprising Berlin's three opera houses (Komische Oper Berlin, Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Deutsche Oper Berlin).
Michael Schindhelm continues to work as novelist, librettist, film documentarist and translator (Russian/German). Since 2000 he published seven books (fiction and non-fiction). His latest work "Lavapolis" has been published in German (Matthes&Seitz Berlin, 2014) and in English (Sternberg Press, 2014). It is the foundation of a transmedia story including the web platform lavapolis.com and a participation at La Biennale di Venezia 2014. The previous work "Dubai Speed" has been published in German (dtv, 2009) and under the title Dubai High in English (Arabian Publishing, 2011). He wrote the opera libretto to Klaus Huber's "Schwarzerde" (Basel, 2001) on the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam and to Cong Su's "Welten in Quecksilberlicht" (Berlin, 2006) about the Chinese poet Gu Cheng. In 2003 he filmed the documentary “Lied von der Steppe“ in the Gobi Desert in collaboration with Jörg Jeshel. From 2003 to 2008 he created the film “Birds Nest“ on the making of the Beijing National Stadium in collaboration with Christoph Schaub. In 2003 Schindhelm appeared as a TV anchorman and as a host in the Swiss German TV talk show “Der Salon”. He has translated works by Gogol, Chekhov and Mandelstam into German.
In February 2016 will be premiered his film The Chinese Lives of Uli Sigg about the Swiss entrepreneur, philanthropist and art collector Uli Sigg who created the first joint venture of a Western corporation in China (1979 with Schindler Elevators) and the largest collection of contemporary Chinese art worldwide which in part he donated to the M+ museum in Hong Kong in 2012.
Cultural research, teaching, and consultancy
Schindhelm started working in Dubai in March 2007, and one year later he was appointed cultural director of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority. His work there focused on the "Khor Dubai" project - the development of cultural infrastructure with museums and theaters along the creek.
He left Dubai in 2009 and started acting as cultural advisor to public organizations in Asia and Europe. Since 2009 he consults the Dutch architectural office OMA on the master plan for the large-scale development West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong. In 2010 he collaborated with the think tank AMO on the conceptualization of the educational program for Strelka Institute, Moscow. From 2010 to 2012 worked as professor for the subject of public space at Strelka, Moscow. At the same time he developed a proposal on culture and sports for the Innovation City of Skolkovo in Russia. Since 2012 he is advisor for international affairs at Zurich University of the Arts and curator of a lecture series on global culture. Since 2013 he is member of the board of trustees of the German charity organization Welthungerhilfe.
- In English: Dubai High (Arabian Publishing, London 2011), Lavapolis (Sternberg Press, New York, Berlin 2014).
- In German: Roberts Reise (dtv, Munich 2000), Zauber des Westens (DVA, Munich 2001), Das Kamel auf der Startbahn (Christoph Merian Verlag, Basel 2004), Die Herausforderung (DVA, Munich 2006), Mein Abenteuer Schweiz (Echtzeit Verlag, Zurich 2007), Dubai Speed (dtv, Munich 2009), Lavapolis (Matthes & Seitz, Berlin 2014). Letzter Vorhang (Theater der Zeit, Berlin 2017)
- Chants of the Steppes (2004) about music of nomads in the desert Gobi (Mongolia).
- Bird’s Nest (2008) on the making of Beijing’s Olympic Games Stadium (designed by Swiss architectural firm Herzog&deMeuron).
- The Chinese Lives of Uli Sigg (2016) Theatrical Release February (Europe), March (Asia)
- Schwarzerde by Klaus Huber (Basel, 2001) on the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam
- Welten in Quecksilberlicht by Cong Su, (Berlin, 2006) about the Chinese poet Gu Cheng.
In 2003 Schindhelm appeared as a TV anchorman and as a host in the Swiss German TV talk show “Der Salon”. He has translated works by Gogol, Chekhov and Mandelstam into German.
- Michael Schindhelm filmography on IMDb
- http://www.openbuildings.com/west-kowloon-cultural-district-profile-3082.html description master plan West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong, September 2010
- http://www.strelkainstitute.com/en/blog/918 website Strelka Institute, interview on public space, Moscow, November 2010
- http://www.zhdk.ch, Zürcher Hochschule der Künste
- http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,722922,00.html Der Spiegel, Travels in a Quiet Land (North Korea), October 2010
- Official website, Michael Schindhelm
- Official website of The Chinese Lives of Uli Sigg, film by Michael Schindhelm
- ARTE Creative, Web platform of the transmedia story "Lavapolis"
- Lavapolis, Web platform of the transmedia story "Lavapolis"
- , website to Dubai Speed, dtv, November 2009
- , Foreign Policy, Washington, March/April 2010
- The Real Drama of Berlin Opera, Deutsche Welle, November 25, 2004
- "Berlin ist pubertär" Interview with Michael Schindhelm, Der Spiegel, April 2, 2007 (in German).
- List of works by Michael Schindhelm in the German National Library (Deutschen Nationalbibliothek).
- Michael Schindhelm on Internet Movie Database
- , Der Spiegel, Travels in a Quiet Land (North Korea), October 2010.
- New director of culture named in Dubai, UPI, April 16, 2008.
- Dubai Culture & Arts Authority
- , website Strelka Institute, interview on public space, Moscow, November 2010
- , description master plan West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong, September 2010.