The Lahr von Leïtis Archive
Collect - Preserve – Remember

Already at a young age Gregorij H. von Leïtis was inspired by the passion for collecting in his family to continue this tradition. He added new exhibits to the already existing collection of documents, letters and photographs.

For many years, one focus of the collection has been to document the rich heritage of writers, composers and intellectuals who were banned and persecuted by Hitler and Nazism and forced to leave their homes.

In addition, the archive contains important documents of personalities associated with Gregorij H. von Leïtis’ work in theater and art since 1960.

In recent years, the materials in the Lahr von Leïtis Archive have regularly served as inspiration for events organized by The Lahr von Leïtis Academy & Archive and its supporting organization Elysium – between two continents. The holdings are to be used as a source and basis for artistic programs and academic lectures or exhibitions.

The existing collection will be permanently further supplemented.

Since December 2018, the Lahr von Leïtis Archive has found a permanent home. The approximately 70 linear meters of archival material are on permanent loan to the Exilarte Center at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. There, the collection will be professionally sorted, digitized and made accessible for research.

The archive contains materials on the following personalities, among others:

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Frank Arnau

1894 – 1976, writer, originally Swiss, he received German citizenship in 1920. In 1933, as an opponent of Hitler, he emigrated via Holland to France and Spain, and in 1939 to Brazil, where he worked as a journalist. After the war, the author of numerous crime novels worked as an investigative journalist in Germany.

Paul Aron

1886 – 1955, German composer, he initiated many world premieres of contemporary composers, such as Ernst Krenek and Paul Hindemith. In 1938, he emigrated, first to Prague, then to Cuba, and eventually to New York. In exile he set a number of poems by Hermann Hesse, Christian Morgenstern, Garcia Lorca and William Butler Yeats to music and composed several piano solo pieces.

Leon Askin

1907 – 2005, Austrian actor, emigrated to the United States, where he closely collaborated with Erwin and Maria Piscator. After World War II he had a successful career in Hollywood, in the early 1990s he returned to Vienna; from 2002 until his death he was an Honorary Artistic Director of Elysium – between two continents.

Hugo Basch

1888 – 1957, Austrian engineer and librettist.

Hugo Frank Basch was born on March 7, 1888, in Vienna, Austria. After having finished his studies at the Technical University in Vienna he became an engineer and worked as a government surveyor of building and construction for the city of Vienna. But theatre and poetry were a passion with him. As one of the closest friends of the composer Egon Lustgarten he wrote the libretto for Lustgarten’s opera Dante im Exil.
In 1938, after Hitler’s annexation of Austria, Hugo Basch was deported to the Dachau concentration camp because of his social-democratic attitude. But General Mackensen stood up for him and insisted, that all those who had been wounded during World War I should be released from Dachau. Hugo Basch, who was injured while fighting as a lieutenant in the Carpathian Mountains, was set free, but had to leave the country within 24 hours. During this time he was forbidden to tell anyone about his experience in Dachau. The camp’s commander said to him, that once he was out of the country he could tell anything he liked, since nobody would believe any of his stories anyway.

The Quakers helped Hugo Basch, his wife Hermine and their son Peter to leave Austria. First the family went to England, and in 1940 they moved to the United States of America. Out of gratitude for the humanitarian aid which the Quakers had given to them, Hermine Basch became a Quaker herself.

In the United States, Hugo Basch subsequently continued writing and regularly published poems in English in various newspapers and magazines.

In 1950 Hugo Basch briefly considered returning to his native Austria. The city of Vienna even offered him to work in his old position. But the beginning of the Korean War ruined those ideas: Since he held several important patents in the area of aircraft technique, Hugo Basch was afraid that the Russians might arrest him in Vienna. On September 13, 1957, he died on Fire Island, New York.

Max Brand

1896 – 1980, Austrian composer and pioneer of electronic music; he emigrated via Prague, Switzerland and Brazil to New York. In 1975 he returned to Austria.

Photo: Max-Brand-Archive

Valentino Casal

867 – 1951, Italian-born sculptor, lived and worked in Berlin, he created several monumental sculptures for the so-called Siegesallee (Avenue of Victory) commissioned by Wilhelm II and also designed a number of important tomb monuments.

Photo: The font, Sculpture by Valentino Casal

Viktor Frankl

1905 – 1997, Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, founder of logotherapy, in numerous books he wrote down his experiences from the concentration camp, among them Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl celebrated his 85th birthday at the Elysium Theater Company in New York. To celebrate this occasion, Gregorij von Leitis premiered Frankl’s play A Metaphysical Conference.

Drawing: Viktor Frankl, entry in Elysium’s guestbook 1990

Ruth Gay

1922 – 2006, American author, wrote extensively on Jewish life and culture.

Leo Glückselig

1914 – 2003, Austrian illustrator, graphic designer and writer.

Oskar Maria Graf

1894 – 1967, German writer, opposed Hitler and emigrated to Czechoslovakia and later to New York. There he founded the Oskar Maria Graf Stammtisch in the 1940s which soon became an institution for émigré artists. To this day a group of regulars, some old emigrants and their younger friends, gather weekly to discuss politics and the arts.

Photo: Georg Bretting

Mimi Grossberg

1905 – 1997, Austrian poet and writer who emigrated to New York.

Dolly Haas

1910 – 1994, German actress and singer, emigrated to the United States. Until her death she was married to the cartoonist Al Hirschfeld.

Fey von Hassell

1918 – 2010, daughter of the diplomat Ulrich von Hassell, who was executed by the Nazis. In 1944, she, too, was imprisoned by the Nazis. She wrote down her adventurous experiences in the captivating book A Mother’s War.

Alice Herz-Sommer

born in Prague in 1903, pianist and the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor. At the age of six she started taking piano lessons, at age seven she sat on the lap of Franz Kafka, a close friend of her family, and listened to his fantastic tales. After intensive studies she gave her first piano recitals in Warsaw, Vienna, Belgium and Copenhagen. In 1943, she, her husband Leopold and her son Rafael were deported to Terezin. There music saved her life. She gave more than 100 concerts. Her husband died shortly before the end of the war in Dachau. She and her son survived. After the liberation of Terezin, Alice Herz-Sommer emigrated to Palestine, where she worked as a pianist and music teacher. In 1986 she moved to London to live with her son. She died there in 2014 at the age of 110.

Ruth Heilgendorff

1894 – 1965, German photographer.

Al Hirschfeld

1903 – 2003, American caricaturist, portrayed famous artists and Broadway stars.

Photo: Al und Louise Hirschfeld by Hank Oneal, late 90s

Walther Hirschberg

1889 – 1960, German composer in exile, worked in several German theatres and as a music critic and editor-in-chief for the journal Signale für die musikalische Welt (Signals for the Musical World). In 1939 he emigrated to France, where he was hidden by the sculptor Georges Salendre outside of Lyon. In 1958 he returned to his native city Berlin.

Franz Hirt

1811 – 1882, founder and first president of the Royal Court in the principality of Reuss-Gera. In addition to his judicial activities, he also wrote poetry and crime novels.

Julius Franz Hirt, born February 20, 1811, attended the Royal Gymnasium (high school) in Gera. He began his law studies in 1830 at the University of Leipzig. He passed his exam as the best in his class on March 22, 1833 and began service as assistant to Prince Reuss at the City Court of Gera. On May 1, 1846, he was appointed director of the Royal Criminal Court in the principality of Reuss-Gera. He held that position until July 1, 1863. During that time he was repeatedly elected delegate to the parliament of the younger line of the Principality of Reuss and held its presidency for two periods.

In 1863 Julius Franz Hirt was named director of the newly established Royal District Court. On May 28, 1864, Prince Heinrich LXVII presented him with the Civilian Medal of Honor First Class. In 1870, he received the Imperial War Memorial Coin for Non-combatants. According to the government treaty of May 18, 1878, the courts were consolidated and Julius Franz Hirt was named the first president of the highest judicial office. Until his death on March 1882, he was the highest judge in the land.

On January 6, 1882, Grand Duke Karl Alexander of Saxony-Weimar named him Commander of the House Order of Vigilance or of the White Falcon. In addition to his court activities, Julius Franz Hirt was also actively involved in literature: under the pseudonym Gerhard Auinger, he wrote theater plays and crime novels.

Julius Franz Hirt was married to Louise Francisca, nee Raithel (1814 – 1881). The couple had one unmarried daughter and six sons:

Georg Hirt entered art history as a painter of flowers.

Paul Hirt became a garden architect.

Wolfgang Hirt became a theologian in Leipzig.

Albert Hirt became a pharmacist and was licensed in 1892 to open a pharmacy in Berlin-Friedenau. His and his wife Marie’s (nee Bräunlich) house, Villa Marie, became a meeting point for artists and academics. A particularly intensive friendship developed with the sculptor Valentino Casal, who created parts of the Avenue of Victory Unter den Linden, and who later designed the Monument for Albert Hirt in the Friedenau Cemetery on Stubenrauchstrasse.

Georg Hirt

1840 – 1913, eldest son of Franz Hirt, painter, taught at the Academy of Arts in Leipzig. Many of his water colors of flowers were used as artwork for greeting cards.

Georg Jokl

1898 – 1954, pianist and composer, emigrated from Vienna to New York.

Erich Itor Kahn

1905 – 1956, German composer.

Ernst Krenek

1900 – 1991, Austrian composer, left an extensive Œuvre, encompassing late romanticism, twelve-tone-music and serial compositions. In 1938 he emigrated from Austria to the United States.

Egon Lustgarten

1887 – 1961, Austrian composer, composed numerous operas.

Egon Lustgarten was born in Vienna, Austria on August 17, 1887, and died in Syosset, NY on May 2, 1961. Although his parents wanted him to become an engineer or a businessman, his great musical talent convinced them to let him study composition and music at the Vienna Music Academy. During his early years as a composer, Egon Lustgarten wrote numerous songs, a piano quartet, a violin concerto, a brass quintet and many choral works. He also wrote articles for music journals, such as Musikblätter des Anbruch and Pult und Taktstock. Soon he was offered a position as a professor at the New Vienna Conservatory where he taught for 17 years.

At an early age his friend Dr. Ludwig Thieben introduced him to anthroposophy, a spiritual movement founded about 1912 by Rudolf Steiner, which sought to overcome the impasse of materialism by renewing all areas of living from pedagogy to medicine, from art to religion. Soon he became a member of the Anthroposophical Society and often performed at their concerts and even composed music for their eurythmical performances. He also was the music director of a workers chorus for which he wrote the choral piece Der Mensch ist unterwegs (Man is on his way) based on a poem by Heinrich Lersch.

His love for the human voice eventually led Egon Lustgarten to compose his first opera Dante im Exil (Dante in Exile). He and his friend, the librettist Hugo Basch, dramatized the novella Die Hochzeit des Mönchs (The Monk’s Marriage) by the Swiss writer Conrad Ferdinand Meyer. In 1938 the well-known conductor Joseph Krips studied the score of Lustgarten’s Dante im Exil and exclaimed: “You may quote that this is the best opera of the 20th century.” Despite the acclaim by such established musical figures of the time as Bruno Walter and Karl Boehm, Lustgarten was forced to emigrate after Hitler’s annexation of Austria. With the help of Lustgarten’s sister-in-law, who was the widow of William Miller, an American Wagnerian singer at the Vienna Court opera, he and his family found exile in the United States of America. In New York, Egon Lustgarten had to struggle to support his family. But despite financial restraints and difficulties in adjusting to the new environment, he was enormously creative. He had many students and worked closely with the New York Anthroposophical Society. In 1945, he performed, to great critical acclaim, one of his operas in the auditorium of the Anthroposophical Society in Manhattan with a semi-professional cast without orchestra.

A master of orchestration, Lustgarten’s compositional legacy includes numerous songs and five operas. Besides the two act opera Dante im Exil, the four other operas are fairy tale operas: The Blue Mountain is based on the Norwegian fairy tale Helge Hal; The Golden Apron is inspired by the Grimm fairy tale Darling Roland; and The Dancing Princesses based on the Grimm fairy tale The Shoes that were danced through. His last opera is a sacred music drama based on Goethe’s fairy tale The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily.

Franz Mittler

1893 – 1970, Austrian exiled composer.

Anna Moffo

1932 – 2006, world-famous American soprano, sang in numerous film adaptations of operas. From 1986 until her death, she was an Honorary Artistic Director of Elysium.

Anna Moffo was born on June 27, 1932 in Wayne, Pennsylvania. After having studied at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, she got a scholarship and went to Rome. In 1955, she had her debut in Spoleto, in 1956 she sang the role of Zerlina in Don Giovanni at the festival in Aix-en-Provence. One year later, Herbert von Karajan engaged her for the Salzburg Festival. In 1959 she gave her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York as Violetta. There she starred in more than 25 roles. In addition, she has sung on all the great opera stages of the world. In the 1960s and 1970s she was one of the leading sopranos world-wide. In 1999, when she celebrated the 40th anniversary of her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City’s mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani declared March 2 Anna Moffo Day.

In May 1958, Anna Moffo made her first solo recording – a pure Mozart program, featuring the famous arias of Cherubino, Susanna, Despina, Konstanze, Zerlina and Pamina. She is accompanied by the Philharmonia Orchestra under the baton of Alceo Galliera.

Many more recordings and CD’s followed, among them Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne, for which she was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque, and Verdi Heroines, which received the Orfee d’or. Besides her own television show, The Anna Moffo Show, she appeared in many opera films, such as La Traviata, Lucia di Lammermoor, La Belle Helene, Czardasfürstin and La Serva Padrona.

Since 1986 Anna Moffo had been the Honorary Artistic Director of Elysium. With great enthusiasm and energy she contributed her knowledge and talent to the trans-Atlantic cultural exchange promoted by Elysium. Especially dear to her heart was Elysium’s work of fostering the talent and development of young singers. 2001 she gave a master class in Bernried during one of Elysium’s International Summer Academies. This was her last trip to Europe. On March 9, 2006 she lost her brave, decade-long battle with cancer.

Maria Ley Piscator

1898 – 1999, dancer, choreographer, director, writer. Collaborated with Gregorij H. von Leitis, was an Honorary Artistic Director of Elysium – between two continents from 1985 until her death.

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Erwin Piscator

1893 – 1966, German director, who revolutionized theatre; founded the political and epic theatre, fled Nazi Germany and went to Paris, and then to New York, where he founded the Dramatic Workshop at the New School for Social Research. In 1951 he returned to Germany, in 1962 he was appointed Artistic Director of the Freie Volksbühne (Free People’s Stage) Berlin. With his productions, technical innovations and writings he tremendously influenced European and American theatre.

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Luise Rainer

born in Germany in 1910, actress and two time Oscar-winner, emigrated to the United States of America. She later lived in London, where she died in 2014. Until her death she was a member of the Advisory Board of the Lahr von Leitis Academy & Archive and Honorary Artistic Director of Elysium.

Tony Randall

1920 – 2004, American actor, student of Erwin Piscator, founder of the National Actors Theatre, was an Honorary Artistic Director of Elysium from 1999 until his death.

Karol Rathaus

1895 – 1954, American composer of Polish origin.

Max Reinhardt

1873 – 1943, influential Austrian director and impresario, founded the Salzburg Festival along with Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, later emigrated to the United States of America.

Joseph Roth

1894 – 1939, Austrian writer, in his novels he portrayed the lost grandeur of life in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1920 he moved to Berlin and worked there as a liberal journalist. After Hitler’s rise to power he emigrated to Paris, where he died from alcohol abuse.

Hans Sahl

1902 – 1993, film critic, writer translator, prominent exponent of German-language exile literature. In 1933 he fled via Prague and Zurich to Paris, in 1940 he started to work with Varian Fry in Marseille to rescue persecuted intellectuals and help them leave France. With one of the last boats he himself fled to New York. In exile he wrote radio and theatre plays, poems and novels, and translated Thornton Wilder, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller into German. One of his most famous books is Memoiren eines Moralisten (Memories of a Moralist). From 1985 until his death he was an advisor of Elysium.

Photo: Bertrand de Geofroy

Paul Aron Sandfort

1930 – 2007, musicologist and literary historian. At the age of 13, when he tried to flee from Copenhagen to Sweden, he was captured by the Gestapo and deported to Terezin. As a trumpeter he played in the Terezin “city orchestra”, which was founded by order of the Nazis. When the International Red Cross visited Terezin, he played the trombone solo from Verdi’s Requiem and also was forced to participate in the infamous propaganda film The Führer gives a city to the Jews. After his liberation from Terezin, he studied musicology and German literature in Copenhagen and Italian literature and opera directing in Rome. He then taught at conservatories and colleges and was working as a director in Aaarhus, Copenhagen and other European cities.

Decades later, he started talking about the Holocaust in lectures, books and plays. His theatre play The Visit deals with an accidental encounter of a Holocaust survivor with a former Swiss delegate of the Red Cross Commission. 2007 this play had its German premiere at the Elysium Festival Bernried. Paul Aron Sandfort, Honorary Artistic Director of Elysium, died a few months after this premiere in Denmark.

Libertas Schulze-Boysen

1913 – 1942, was born in Paris as the youngest daughter of Otto Haas-Heye and Countess Victoria zu Eulenburg-Hertefeld. She grew up on Liebenberg, the estate of her grandfather in Brandenburg, outside Berlin.

In 1921, her parents divorced. Her father, Otto Haas-Heye, worked as a professor of art at the Kunstgewerbeschule (School for Applied Arts) in Berlin, which was housed in Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse No. 8. Later the building became the headquarters of the Gestapo. Otto Haas-Heye sent his daughter to attend the lyceum in Zurich, where she got her university-entrance diploma in March of 1932.

Immediately following her diploma, Libertas lived for nine months in England. In 1933 she was hired as press assistant at the Berlin office of the film company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

In the summer of 1934, she met Harro Schulze-Boysen while sailing. In July of 1936 Harro and Libertas got married. After their marriage, Libertas continued working mainly as a journalist. She also did translations for her husband. From November 1941 on, she was employed at the Deutsche Kulturzentrale (German Central Office for Culture).

On September 8, 1942, Libertas Schulze-Boysen was arrested in Berlin. During her three months in prison she wrote some very moving poems. The gravity and sober language of those poems forms a stark contrast to the somewhat naïve, childlike and light-hearted poems of the young Libertas. These poems along with Libertas’s letters to her mother, show the enormous maturity, calmness and wisdom of the 29-year-old in the face of death and are a grand testimony of humanity and dignity. On December 22, 1942, Libertas Schulze-Boysen was executed by the Nazi-Regime.

Libertas Schulze-Boysen and her husband Harro, along with Arvid Harnack and his wife Mildred (who was an American), formed the nucleus of the so-called “Red Orchestra”, a resistance group fighting Hitler and his regime. The “Red Orchestra” was one of the biggest and most diverse resistance groups: women and men, Christians and Marxists, workers, intellectuals and artists, they all gathered in this group, united by their opposition to the Nazi Regime. For years they helped German Jews and political dissidents to escape and also provided vital intelligence to both the US and Russia. In the summer of 1942 the Gestapo discovered their activities and arrested over 100 members of the group. More of 50 of them were sentenced to death and executed, among them Libertas Schulze-Boysen.

After 1945 the historical contributions of the “Red Orchestra” were discussed very controversially and its achievements were often falsely labeled as pro-communist. Starting in the early 90’s the access to hitherto inaccessible documents in archives in Prague and Moscow helped to correct and re-write the history of Libertas Schulze-Boysen and her circle.

Mischa Spoliansky

1898 – 1985, composer of Russian descent, left his imprint on musical life in Berlin during the Weimar Republic: He worked as music director of the cabaret Schall und Rauch (Sound and Smoke), and collaborated with Max Reinhardt and Marcellus Schiffer. He put his name on the map with the revue Es liegt in der Luft (Something is in the Air) and the play Zwei Krawatten (Two Ties) with Marlene Dietrich. In 1933 he emigrated to London.

Robert Stolz

1880 – 1975, Austrian composer of numerous operettas, film music and songs. His music for the first German talkie Zwei Herzen im Dreivierteltakt (Two Hearts in Three-Quarter Time) became immensely popular. After Hitler’s rise to power he helped a number of Jewish friends and colleagues to escape Nazi Germany. Finally he himself emigrated to the United States, where he conducted many benefit concerts with Viennese waltzes during the war. In 1946 he returned to Vienna.

Viktor Ullmann

1898 – 1944, Austrian composer and conductor; in 1942 he was deported to the ghetto and concentration camp Terezin. There he composed many songs, three piano sonatas, one string quartet, a melodrama based on Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke (The Lay of Love and Death of Cornet Christoph Rilke) and the opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis (The Emperor of Atlantis). In 1944 he was murdered in Auschwitz.

Photo: Arnold Schoenberg Institute, Los Angeles

Dr. Werner Vogel

1892 – 1936, was the manager of the German Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai from 1923 until the time of his death. The subject of his doctorate in 1922 was The Historical Basis of Chinese Criminal Law. In addition to his activities as an attorney, he regularly published articles about China’s development in German dailies and technical magazines. He thus early on gained a reputation as an excellent China-hand. During a home-stay in Europe he fell ill with Scarlet fever and died within a few days in a hospital in Budapest.

Karl Wiener

1891 – 1942, Austrian composer, worked as the official in charge of music at the Jüdischer Kulturbund (Jewish Cultural Association). In 1942 he was murdered in the concentration camp Sachsenhausen. While he was kept by the Gestapo at the Alexanderplatz prison, he composed the Alexander-Idyll, which he finished on April 19, 1942.

Simon Wiesenthal

1908 – 2005, Austrian engineer. As a Holocaust survivor he dedicated his entire life to the persecution of fugitive Nazis, so that they would be held accountable in a just court trial.

Dr. Volkmar Zühlsdorff

1912 – 2006, resistance fighter, diplomat and journalist, was born on December 9, 1912 in Finow, a small village outside of Berlin. In 1931 he joined the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold (Imperial Banner Black-Red-Gold), an organization with 3.5 million members founded in the 1920s to protect the Weimar republic against its enemies from the extreme right and left. In Berlin, Volkmar Zühlsdorff studied law.

On May 15, 1933 he narrowly escaped his arrest by the Gestapo. Together with Prince Hubertus and Princess Helga zu Löwenstein he emigrated to Austria and in 1938 to the United States. In 1936, Volkmar Zühlsdorff, together with Löwenstein, a dedicated democrat whom Joseph Goebbels dubbed the “Red Prince” and with the eminent Austrian writer and journalist Richard A. Bermann, founded the German Academy for Arts and Sciences in Exile. The foundation of the German Academy in Exile was probably the most significant attempt to organize the cultural exiles. Under the joint presidency of Thomas Mann and Sigmund Freud the Academy enabled the scattered and often isolated German-speaking intellectuals to work together constructively. From 1936 until 1942, Volkmar Zühlsdorff was Managing Director of the German Academy of Arts and Sciences in Exile.

On October 12, 1946 Volkmar Zühlsdorff returned to Germany. From 1947 until 1957 he was the spokesperson of the German Action (Deutsche Aktion), the first civil rights movement in Germany after World War II. Two of the goals of the German Action where to stop the bombing of the island of Helgoland by the British air force, and to allow free elections in the Saar region, so that its citizens could decide themselves whether they want to be reintegrated into the new Federal Republic of Germany. From 1952 until 1956, Zühlsdorff also worked as a journalist for the German weekly Die Zeit. 1959 he joined the Foreign Ministry of Germany. Since 1979 he has been one of the chairmen of the Free German Author’s Association (Freier Deutscher Autorenverband), whose Honorary President he became in 1991. In addition, he served as Chairman of the Federation of Active Democrats (Bund Aktiver Demokraten) and member of the executive board of the Union of German Associations of Resistance Fighters and Persecuted (Union deutscher Widerstandskämpfer- und Verfolgtenverbände).

In 1988, Volkmar Zühlsdorff received the Cross of the Order of Merit from the President of the Federal Republic of Germany.

From 2001 until his death in 2006, he was an Honorary Artistic Director of Elysium – between two continents.