German Composer Udo Zimmermann has Died, Aged 78

The composer and conductor was a champion of contemporary music and worked in several high-profile opera houses

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Udo Zimmermann, a prominent German composer and the former director of the Leipzig Opera and Deutsche Oper Berlin, has passed away following a battle with a rare neurodegenerative disorder.

Born in 1943 in Dresden, Zimmermann initially began his musical studies singing in the Dresden Kreuzchor. He remained in Dresden for the early years of his adult life, studying conducting and composition, while singing at the Dresden Academy of Music.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Zimmermann became established and well-respected as one of Germany's foremost composers. His most popular work, "The White Rose," is a chamber opera based on the letters of Hans and Sophie Scholl. The pair were members of The White Rose, a student group which was part of the non-violent resistance movement in Nazi Germany. Zimmermann's opera has had over two hundred performances, making it one of Europe's most famous contemporary operas.

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, Zimmermann became the artistic director of the Leipzig Opera. There, he made a point of presenting contemporary works to East German audiences, and led premieres of operas by Karlheinz Stockhausen, Dieter Schnebel, and Jörg Herchet.

A champion of new music, Zimmermann founded the Studio Neue Musik in Dresden, which eventually became the Dresden Center for Contemporary Music and then the European Centre for the Arts Hellerau. Also, over the course of his fourteen-year tenure as Artistic Director of Bavarian Radio's Musica Viva series, he programmed over 200 premieres of new works.

Our condolences to Zimmermann's family, friends, and colleagues.