01 December 2022

P.R. Jenkins

Karajan artists: Michael Hampe – the “Don Giovanni” director

Michael Hampe (1935 – 2022) was a German stage director and theatre manager who worked with Karajan on the 1987 Salzburg “Don Giovanni”.

He was a member of the Salzburg Festival Management between 1985 and 1990 and there he also directed several productions without Karajan on the rostrum – for example with Riccardo Muti, Jeffrey Tate and Bernard Haitink. Hampe was head of the Cologne Opera between 1975 and 1995. In those years the opera house achieved a superlative international reputation. This letter was written by Hampe after the successful “Così fan tutte” in Salzburg in 1982.

Dear Herr von Karajan,                                                                                                                       Drottningholm, 16 August 1982

In writing these lines, I would like to thank you once more sincerely for your invitation to direct “Così fan tutte”. It was a great pleasure for me and I hope you were content with the overall result.

All the best for you and kindest greetings


Michael Hampe


Hans Ernst Weidinger, theatre history expert and opera fan, founded the “Don Juan Archive” in Vienna in 1987, the year of the bicentenary of “Don Giovanni’s” first performance, after having studied the “Don Juan” item for many years. In 2007 he made it a public research centre. The “Don Juan Archive” also has made several publications, for instance the book “Oper – Spiel ohne Regel (Opera – game without rules)” about the staging director Michael Hampe made for Karajan’s “Don Giovanni” in 1987.


Here is another letter Hampe wrote to Karajan 4 months before Karajan’s death in 1989:

Dear Herr von Karajan,

I heard from Dr Märkle that you have decided not to conduct “Figaro” yourself in 1991. I am very sad about that although I have to accept that it is entirely your decision that everybody has to respect as such. Please be assured that I will do everything to cooperate successfully with the other members on the staff to bring about a production for the Easter Festival that you will enjoy and will find your approval. I have a completed plan for the production that I want to show you first. After Easter, I can come to Salzburg at any time.

Alle the best for the Easter Festival and especially for you


Michael Hampe


Naturally Karajan didn’t conduct anything in 1991. But who was his substitute? Four days after Hampe’s letter this telegram from London reached Karajan’s office.

Maestro Herbert bon(!) Karajan

Salzberger(!) festival


am extremely honoured to accept your very kind invitation to conduct figaro in Salzburg in 1991 and may i send you my very best wishes for your 1989 easter festival. Sincerely

bernard haitink


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