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Our guest on 11.01.2009

Michael Schindhelm, Director of International Cultural Projects at Dubai's Art and Culture Authority

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Michael Schindhelm is one of the most multi-faceted personalities to grace the international theater- and cultural scene.

Born in Thüringen in eastern Germany, Schindhelm studied quantum physics but even before the fall of the Berlin wall, he had switched professions from science to the arts. In the sphere of culture he worked as an author, a dramatic advisor, and a translator. Schindhelm has also served as director of the Basel Theater and as general director of Berlin’s Opera foundation. In 2008, he became Director of Culture, Art and History at Dubai’s Culture and Art Authority.

Michael Schindhelm was born in what used to be East Germany in 1960. Always torn between science and the arts, he studied quantum chemistry in Russia and was later employed, in 1986, by East Germany's Academy of Sciences. One of his peers was Angela Merkel, now the German Chancellor. But in the same year he gave up his academic career, as the Stasi - which had recruited him as a student - exerted more pressure on him. He earned money as an author and translator.

In 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, he was 28 and the saw the opportunity for a new start, taking on the post of theater director in Altenburg-Gera.

His breakthrough in the West came in 1996 when he was appointed theater director in Basel, in Switzerland: the first time an eastern German theater director received such a calling.

A Swiss committee cleared him of any charges that his Stasi involvement had caused harm to others. He stayed in charge of the Basel stage for a decade, which in 1998/1999 was elected best German theater of the year.

Schindhelm's Stasi complicity resurfaced again in 2004 when he was appointed director- general of Berlin's opera foundation, linking the German capital's three opera houses.

Although a special parliamentary commission absolved him of any guilt over his Stasi activities, he quit his post over demands to save money by the Berlin authorities.

Since March 2004, he's been director of the Culture and Arts Authority in Dubai, seeking amongst other things to build an opera house - with star architect Zaha Hadid - and generally promote Dubai's cultural development.

Michael Schindhelm has published two books, and has also worked as a presenter and filmmaker. He has one child and lives in Tessin, close to the Swiss-Italian border, where he says he has found his private paradise.

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