GETTING TO KNOW: MAXI BLAHA

Born 1972 in Vienna (Austrian and Australian citizen), Max Blahai studied Music and Art at the Vienna University of Performing Arts and the Mozarteum University in Salzburg. Maxi Blaha took singing training with Klaus Ofczarek and Althea Bridges and worked with Robert Lewis in New York. She is a Company Member at the Vienna Burgtheater and has had lead engagements at the theatres of Coburg, Tuebingen, (Germany), Vienna, Linz, (Austria) and leading part at the “Purim Spil” (during the Linz 09 European Cultural Capital program).

Maxi has worked  with renowned directors such as Giorgio Strehler, André Heller, Paulus Manker, Georg Schmiedleitner, Walter Schmidinger, Achim Benning, Gil Mehmert, Gerhard Willert, Kurt Palm, Martina Gredler, Anna Maria Krassnig, Sarantos Zervoulakos, Joshua Sobol and others.

Blaha received the audience award for “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” at the Bavarian Theatre Festival and her Bertha von Suttner Solo was awarded for  “Individual performance“ at the BRM Festival in New Delhi. 2014-2016: Worldwide tour of her English solo-piece SOUL OF FIRE about Bertha von Suttner (premiere at the Austrian Parliament followed by over 100 performances in Paris, Istanbul, Maribor, Rome, USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, India, Iran…)

Blaha has been invited to renowned Festivals including the International Brucknerfest in Linz, Bharat Rang Mahotsav Theatrefestival in New Delhi, World Peace Conference of the United Nations, European Parliament in Brussels, Nobel Institute in Oslo.

The premiere of Blaha´s acclaimed monologue by the Austrian Nobel Prize Laureate Efriede Jelinek I ONLY EXIST AS A REFLECTION took place in Austria at the Ingeborg Bachman Prize Award Ceremony in 2016. More than 40 guest performances led her to Vienna, Paris, Warsaw, Istanbul, Brussels, Zürich, Maribor, London.

In 2018 Blaha was entrusted with the exclusive performing rights by the Belvedere Museum, Vienna of the acclaimed biographical play EMILIE FLÖGE-BELOVED MUSE by Penny Black about Emilie Flöge, Gustav Klimt´s long-time partner and muse. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Klimt´s death in 2018 Maxi Blaha is taking on a world wide tour (Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Japan, London, Paris, Istanbul…)

maxi-blaha_1_peter-rigaud1.jpg
Photo credit: Peter Rigaud

The Street talked with Maxi in Vienna before leaving for Canberra to perform in Emilie Flöge – Beloved Muse at The Street Theatre.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBILITIES OF THE STAGE FOR YOU?

I am a trained theatre actress.  I went to the state acting school in Vienna and started at the renowned Vienna Burgtheater in my early twenties. Therefore I got to work with many very talented and extraordinary directors and colleagues. I would say that this past had a great impact on me and it also led me through the last 25 years as I always strived to be on the stage. I have very little interest in movies, which is not very common, I know. I am addicted to that LIVE moment connecting with the audience. I also like the fact that every performance is unique and cannot be captured. That might sound very old fashioned, but hey, that’s the way I feel it…

YOU ARE A PRODUCER AND COMMISSION AND DEVELOP NEW WORKS THAT ALSO TOUR INTERNATIONALLY. TELL US MORE ABOUT THIS SIDE OF YOUR CAREER. 

I was a company member at various well known theatres in Austria and Germany before I got married and became a mother. When my son was a baby I had the idea of setting up my own play about Bertha von Suttner and had a play written for me. I planned to have one single performance at the Austrian Parliament and ended up doing more than 100 all around the world. Nothing can be planned in a theatre career, also not a big success. I was very humble and didn’t take anything for granted, but of course I was flattered by the international reviews and audiences´ reactions. After that I had the chance to do a play on Elfriede Jelinek, the most famous Austrian writer and Nobel prize laureate in literature. She is an icon and very inspiring artist and I was very happy that she allowed me to do this solo with a wonderful young pianist by my side. Then the Belvedere Museum asked me to set up a play about Emilie Flöge and I was more than happy to do this at the wonderful, prestigious Belvedere castle in Vienna next to Gustav Klimt´s KISS and other world famous paintings.

HOW DID YOU BRIEF THE WRITER FOR CENTENARY COMMISSION CELEBRATING GUSTAV KLIMIT’S DEATH, THE PLAY EMILIE FLÖGE-BELOVED MUSE.

Penny Black is a very talented and successful English writer and translator. She has worked with very renowned companies and directors and she got all access to the Klimt archives and met collectors, read all letters and postcards that Klimt wrote to Flöge (more than 300), spent days in museums, libraries and we spent time together in Vienna…

EMILIE FLÖGE-BELOVED MUSE OPENED AT THE BELVEDERE IN VIENNA AS A COMMISSION TO MARK THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF GUSTAV KIMIT’S  DEATH AND SINCE YOU HAVE TAKEN ON A WORLD-WIDE TOUR (AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND, USA, CANADA, JAPAN, LONDON, PARIS, ISTANBUL…) WHAT HAVE YOU DISCOVERED ALONG THE WAY?

I had wonderful, sold-out performances in Istanbul and Ronald S. Lauder´s NEUE GALERIE in New York, where the famous painting of A. Bloch-Bauer is shown (THE LADY IN GOLD).  I got to go to Japan and the Royal Academy and also be near more Klimt paintings and this of course is very special to me. Vienna around 1900 is still a very inspiring and sophisticated, breath-taking period in art and I enjoy every minute of my life….

WHAT WAS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS FOR BRINGING EMILIE FLÖGE TO LIFE?

Talking to experts, grandchildren, collectors, looking at paintings, reading personal correspondence….

YOU RECENTLY PERFORMED THE WORK IN ENGLISH IN NEW YORK. WHAT ARE THE SHIFTS FOR YOU IN DOING THIS?

As English is not my mother tongue, I had to work very hard to learn the text by heart, but it also encourages me to go through more details, hidden hints, motives and emotions…

YOU ARE ACCOMPANIED BY GEORG BUXHOFER ON BASS ON STAGE. TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU WORK TOGETHER.

We have already worked together in SOUL OF FIRE, we toured the world together. He is one of the greatest musicians I have ever worked with, we are friends for life. Well, what more shall I say?

YOU ARE CELEBRATED FOR YOUR PORTRAYALS OF AUSTRIAN FEMALE ICONS SUCH AS BERTHA VON SUTTNER AND EFRIEDE JELINEK. WHY ARE THESE PERFORMANCES IMPORTANT TO YOU?  

I think that many of these radical, brave, talented women are not known enough and wanted to bring them back to life or show unknown sides of them. Theatre as a very emotional process can toughen people and transport information in a very sublime way and I thought that I could give it a try and see if I will get my information through…it worked well!

HOW DO YOU SEE THE RUB BETWEEN AUSTRALIAN AND AUSTRIAN CULTURES AND CONNECTIONS BETWEEN THE TWO?

My Dad is from Australia, it was always a dream country for me. I was born and raised in Vienna, very artistically and always connected to classical music, arts, culture. I have discovered the Australian native art and Aboriginal art just recently and I feel very inspired by this continent.

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR EMERGING PROFESSIONALS WANTING TO BUILD A PERFORMING ARTS CAREER?

Follow your dreams! Go for it…

WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?

Exchange with my husband, who is a writer and I also read a lot and get to see many interesting cities through my travels. That’s very inspiring….

WHAT ARE YOU READING AND WATCHING CURRENTLY?

My favorite book of this year is HANYA YNAGIHARA´s A LITTLE LIFE, an artwork that deeply touched me and I can highly recommend. At the moment I am reading about Ludwig Wittgenstein and his sister.

I watched SALOME by Richard Strauß at the Salzburg Festival last night and was very impressed again by this wonderful music.

 

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