Gregorij H. von Leïtis

Artistic Director of
Elysium - Between Two Continents


studied art history and theater science at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich. He also studied acting with Helen von Münchhofen and Herbert Mensching in Munich, and with Lee Strasberg in New York. He has been working for over 40 years at various theaters in Europe and the United States. In the summer of 2003, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany by German Federal President Johannes Rau for his achievements in promoting understanding between peoples by way of art. In 1985 he received, as the first non-American, the New York Theatre Club Prize for his production of Bertolt Brecht's DieJüdische Frau (The Jewish Wife). In 1983, he founded the Elysium Theater Company in New York, which ten years later was restructured and became the art academy Elysium - between two continents. With Elysium Theater Company, he founded the program "Theater for the Homeless" and committed himself to the integration of marginal social groups by way of theater. Gregorij von Leïtis was guest director at the State Theaters of Linz and Bregenz. In 1998, he produced Kafka's Ein Bericht an eine Akademie (A Report to an Academy) at the Bloomsbury Theater in London, and Ullmann's opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis (The Emperor of Atlantis) at the Miller Theater in New York. In 2001, he directed the Italian premiere of Krenek's chamber opera What Price Confidence? at the Teatro dell'Opera in Rome.

In 1996, he recited the New York premiere of Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke (The Lay of Love and Death of the Cornet Christoph Rilke), one of the last works, which the composer Viktor Ullmann was able to complete in the ghetto and concentration camp Theresienstadt before being deported to Auschwitz and murdered there in October 1944. Since then, he has performed this composition for speaker and piano internationally in many cities, among them in Berlin, Bernried, Brussels, Coburg, Kamenz, Kiev, Leipzig, Lodz, London, Munich, Naples, Neuwied, Pulheim, Prague, Rome, Rostock, Salzburg, Sarajevo, Ulm, Warsaw, Weimar, White Plains, and Vienna.

Gregorij von Leïtis is a strong advocate in the ongoing effort to rediscover and present the works of artists who were banned, silenced and persecuted by the Nazi regime. Since 1997, he has created numerous programs under the theme "Entartete Kunst" (Degenerate Art). Among others, music and texts by persecuted artists under the title Memorial Flame to Lives the Nazis Extinguished were performed under his direction at Carnegie Weill Hall in New York City. In the summer of 2005, he directed the world premiere of Egon Lustgarten's opera Dante im Exil (Dante in Exile) in Bernried, and later in New York.

From 1988 to 1990, Gregorij von Leïtis taught German-language theater literature at New York University's Deutsches Haus. Since 1994, he has been chairman and artistic director of the International Summer Academy for young singers, and president of the Lahr von Leïtis Academy & Archive. As a stage director, Gregorij von Leïtis also prepared the legendary American soprano Anna Moffo for her role in the German TV series Lorenz und Söhne (Lorenz and Sons).

In 1985, Gregorij von Leïtis founded the Erwin Piscator Award, whose chairman he is. The Piscator Award is given annually in memory of the founder of political theater. In the same year, he began his intensive collaboration with Erwin Piscator's widow Maria Ley Piscator. Together with her husband, she had founded the Dramatic Workshop at the New School for Social Research, which brought forth many famous artists such as Harry Belafonte, Tony Curtis, Ben Gazzara, Judith Malina, Robert de Niro and Elaine Stritch.

In addition to his activity as director of Elysium – between two continents, he is also the co-director of the Elysium Festival Bernried, as well as a member of the board of advisors of the Nietzsche Forum in Munich, of the Viktor Ullmann Foundation London, the Jewish Music Institute London, and the Leon Askin Forum in Vienna.

It was a special pleasure for Gregorij von Leïtis to be invited by the director Martin Scorcese to perform, in his part of the film trilogy - New York Stories - the role of the art dealer Blum.


Michael Lahr

Program Director and Associate Artistic Director
of Elysium - Between Two Continents


studied philosophy and adult education at the College of Philosophy in Munich and at the Jesuit University Centre Sèvres in Paris. In 1990, he was accepted at the Cusanuswerk as a fellowship student. From 1991 to 1994 he was a member of the educational commission of the Cusanuswerk.

Michael Lahr is a co-author of the volume of essays Bilder des Menschen (Images of Man), to which he contributed an article entitled Der Jüdische Humanismus und das Konzept der Veranwortung (Jewish Humanism and the Concept of Responsibility). His essay about Nietzsches Einfluss auf die französische Gegenwartsphilosophie: Spurensuche im Werk Michel Foucaults (Nietzsche's Influence on French contemporary Philosophy: Looking for Traces in the Work of Michel Foucault) was published in the yearbook of the Nietzsche Forum Munich e.V. A specialist on Erwin Piscator, founder of the Political and Epic Theater, he curated the exhibition Erwin Piscator: Political Theater in Exile, which has been shown in Bernried, New York, Catania, Salzburg, and Munich.

As the program director of Elysium he has unearthed numerous works by artists who had to flee their home country under the pressure of the Nazi regime, or who were murdered. Many of these compositions were performed for the first time in concerts in Europe and the US. Among other efforts, he was responsible for the programs Music from Theresienstadt and Degenerate Music. He gives introductory lectures for all Elysium programs. At the same time, he lectures regularly on questions of general social and political significance. Among other things, he has lectured at St. Norbert's College in De Pere, Wisconsin, at the American Academy in Berlin, at the Lessing Museum in Kamenz, at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York, at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, at the Deutsches Haus at New York University, at the university in Catania/Sicily, and at the University Mozarteum in Salzburg.

In 2006 he directed the Elysium production Neue Anfänge: Fragmente einer Zeit (New Beginnings: Fragments of an Era). In 2008 he was responsible for the program Fundstücke: Musikalisch-literarischer Streifzug durch das Lahr von Leïtis Archive (Found Objects: A Musical-Literary Expedition into the Lahr von Leïtis Archive.)

Michael Lahr is the Executive Director of the Lahr von Leïtis Academy & Archive, Vice Chairman of the Erwin Piscator Award Society, co-director of the Elysium Festival in Bernried, and member of the advisory board of the Nietzsche Forum Munich and the Leon Askin Forum Vienna.