Born in Plettenberg, Germany, Henning Brockhaus graduated in languages in 1965. In that same year he began to study music at the Nordwest-Deutsche Musikakademie in Detmold. He graduated in clarinet and completed courses in composition. Following a promising career as a clarinetist he continued his studies at Freie Universität in Berlin, where he studied psychology, philosophy and theatre studies, while also working as a voluntary assistant to the director on a number of diverse productions at the renowned Volksbühne Berlin DDR with Benno Besson and Heiner Müller, and at the Berliner Ensemble with Manfred Weckwerth and La Staatsoper in Berlin with Ruth Berghaus. But it was an encounter with Giorgio Strehler in 1975 that veered him towards directing as a career.
He then became assistent to and close collaborator of the founder of the Piccolo Teatro in Milan. While at the Piccolo Teatro, and with Strehler, he worked on the sets for a number of productions, namely: The Good Person of Sezuan by Bertolt Brecht (Hamburg and Piccolo Teatro, Milan); El nost Milan by Carlo Bertolazzi; Shakespeare’s The Tempest; August Strindberg’s Storm; Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days; La storia della bambola abbandonata by Giorgio Strehler, taken from a fable by Alfonso Sastre; La grande magia by Eduardo De Filippo; Arlecchino servitore di due padroni by Carlo Goldoni; Luigi Pirandello’s Come tu mi vuoi, and Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
His working relationship with Strehler continued at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan with Lohengrin, two stagings of Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Simon Boccanegra, Don Giovanni and Le Nozze di Figaro.
From 1984 to 1989 he was the theatre company’s dramatist and director at the Odeon – Théâtre de l’Europe in Paris, staging L’Histoire inachevée by Volker Braun; Jeux de femme by Krzysztof Zanussi and Edward Zebrowski and Il signor Pirandello è desiderato al telefono by Antonio Tabucchi.
In 1989, he returns to the Piccolo Teatro with L’affare by Egidio Bertazzoni, is appointed the theatre company’s dramatist for the Faust Project (while also directing a number of other productions there) in addition to working for the Union des Théâtres de l’Europe.
In 1990, Henning Brockhaus directs The Lady from the Sea by Henrik Ibsen, also staged at the Teatro Argentina in Rome.
Here we reference his most important productions as director in successive years: The Seven Deadly Sins by Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weill, with Ute Lemper as the lead, at the Schauspielhaus in Düsseldorf; Clavigo by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe at Schauspielhaus in Zurich; Biedermann und die Brandstifter by Max Frisch and La Buona Madre by Carlo Goldoni in Antwerp.
With Pina Bausch’s theatre company, in Wuppertal he stages Un Ballo in Maschera by Giuseppe Verdi, Andorra by Max Frisch, Don Carlos by Friedrich Schiller, and Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello at Saarbrücken, Richard Wagner’s Parsifal in Utrecht, and Il Matrimonio segreto by Domenico Cimarosa at Staatsoper in Berlin.
At the Teatro Sperimentale di Spoleto he stages Tosca by Giacomo Puccini, at the Nationale Reisopera –Holland, Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and at the Verdi Festival in Parma, Verdi’s Rigoletto. His productions met with great success at the Staatsoper in Hamburg for La vera storia by Luciano Berio, at Reggio Emilia for Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, then staged in Turin (a prose performance, adaptation by Henning Brockhaus in five different evenings).
But among his most critically acclaimed productions we have the unforgettable La Traviata, Rigoletto, and Attila by Giuseppe Verdi, Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at the Macerata Opera Festival; Verdi’s Otello at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, also La Traviata and Macbeth, and Elektra by Richard Strauss at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.
His productions have attained wide consensus in Japan: La Traviata in Nagoya, and Faust, Lucia di Lammermoor and Macbeth in Tokyo, which was the recipient of the Japanese critics’ top award.
In 1993, for La Traviata and in 2003, for El Cimarrón by H.W. Henze, at Macerata he receives the Premio Abbiati (Italian music critics’ award).
For the Pergolesi-Spontini di Jesi festival in 2004 he stages La Serva Padrona by Gian Battista Pergolesi and a prose performance on various texts by J. J. Rousseau: Le devin du village.
In 2005, Vanne, carta amorosa. Festival Pergolesi-Spontini.
In 2006, Turandot, by Giacomo Puccini. Baths of Caracalla, Summer Festival, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.
In 2007, Jakob Lenz by Wolfgang Rihm at Macerata, Terra dei Teatri.
In 2008, La Traviata at Palm Beach, USA, Turandot at New National Theatre of Tokyo.
In 2009, The Emperor Jones by Louis Gruenberg at Teatro delle Muse, Ancona; Il Prigionier superbo by G.B. Pergolesi at Jesi. In 2010, La Traviata at San Carlo in Naples, Palau de les Arts di Valencia and NCPA in Beijing (conducted by Lorin Maazel); Beatrice di Tenda by Vincenzo Bellini at Teatro Bellini di Catania. In 2011, La Serva Padrona by G.B. Pergolesi and Le Devin du village by J. J. Rousseau for the Festival Pergolesi-Spontini at Jesi.
In 2012, Le Notti Bianche by Dostojevsky, Grotte di Frasassi; La Traviata, Teatro Massimo di Palermo and Macerata Opera Festival; Jaokob Lenz by Wolfgang Rihm, Teatro Comunale di Bologna and Festival Lugo; Lucia di Lammermoor, Circuito Lirico Lombardo, Ravenna and Fondazione Pergolesi Jesi; Macbeth, Fondazione Pergolesi Jesi; Macbeth, Teatro Carlo Felice, Teatro Verdi di Trieste.
In 2014. Otello at Teatro Massimo, Palermo and at San Carlo, Naples; Macbeth, Royal Opera House, Oman; La Traviata at Trieste and Udine, at Macerata Opera Festival, in Astana/Kazakistan, at Festival Verdi di Busseto.
In 2015. Lohengrin at Teatro Municipal de São Paulo.
In addition to his long and illustrious career he teaches directing at university level, at I.U.A.V. in Venice and since 2004, at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Macerata.