Subtlety, subtle humor, and quirky flair were just as much a part of her trademarks as her light, crisp voice that graced the burg stage as a member of the troupe since 1972. Even after retiring in 1999, Zeller returned to the stage as well as her many film and television engagements, but in recent years it has been Things are quiet about the room actress.
Zeller summed up her eventful career with “Please Let Me Play Along!” In her 2015 autobiography, where she not only talks about life in the theatre, but also about the experiences in her second major film. A dual role that wasn’t always easy to master. The former director of the Burgtheater, Klaus Behmann, “wouldn’t let her do a movie”. It was Beeman’s conviction that “movie and television are actually idiots,” as Zeller said on the occasion of her 85th birthday.
From Kattan to “Yesterday’s Flowers”
However, she also reached fame in film: as Mrs. Kottan in the TV series ‘Kottan Investigated’ she gained huge popularity in the early 1980s. She was especially popular as Herta in the series “Julia – An Extraordinary Woman”.
Zeller, born on February 25, 1928 in Mauer near Vienna, acted in cinemas in Michael Glaugher’s “Die Ameisenstraße” (1995), in Robert Dörnhelm’s “Der Unfisch” (1997) and in Xaver Schwarzenberger’s “Zuckeroma” (2004). In 2010 she appeared again in Peter Patzak’s “Kottan Designer: Rien ne va plus”, and in 2011 she appeared in front of the camera in Glavinic’s adaptation of “How to Live” (Director: David Schalko).
In 2015, she acted in “Ghost Hunter – On the Ice Trail” by Toby Bowman. She was last seen on the big screen in 2016 in Chris Krause’s “Yesterday’s Flowers”.
In fact, I wanted a different role for each piece.
But first there was the theatre: Zeller received her first post-special acting training engagement in 1950 at the Theater in der Josefstadt. In the next twenty years it was seen mainly on German stages. The actress did not return to her hometown until 1972, when Gerhard Klingenberg brought her to Vienna’s Burgtheater.
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There she quickly developed into a supporting role actress: “Actually, I wanted the other part in every piece, but then Gusty Wolf always got it,” Zeller once said with a laugh in an interview with APPA. “I always got the smaller part, but I let Gusti go, we got along really well.” Zeller has appeared in plays by Kleist, Ibsen, Brecht, Pirandello, Nestroy, Grillparzer, and Shakespeare. At the Salzburg Festival in 2005 and 2006, she took the stage in Domplatz as Jedermann’s mother.
Mrs. Liebig at Heldenplatz
But she always had a special preference for contemporary authors. In Thomas Bernhard’s legendary productions by Klaus Behmann, for example, she played The Little Land Lady in “Theatermacher” and Frau Liebig in “Heldenplatz”.
In subsequent years, it was seen in many premieres and world premieres, for example in “Choral Fantasy” and “The Sunken Cathedral” by Gert Junk directed by Christian Buhl, in “The Bus (The Stuff of a Saint)” by Lukas Bärfuss by Thomas Langhoff, in “The End and the Beginning” by Roland Schimmelpfennig and directed by Nicholas Stemann and in the productions of Friedrich Heller Handke’s “Untertagblues” and “Spuren der Verirrten”. In 2012 she appeared at the Burgtheater in Nashe der Oper. Würgeengel” by Martin Wottke after Luis Buñuel.
In 1998, Zeller was awarded the professional title of Roommate Actress, in 2001 she was named Best Actress of the Year as part of the “Long Night of Radio Play” and in 2010 she named Romy the Most Popular Actress. In the last years of her activity, she was on stage under Luc Bondi in the Festwochen co-production of Moliere’s “Tartuffe” as Madame Pernelle and acted on television in “Alles Schwindel” by Wolfgang Murnberger.
Moments of great joy and happiness
“Bibianna Zeller endeared her audience and with her passion for the art of acting she wrote powerfully in the history of theatre,” Green Party foreign minister Andrea Meyer said on a radio programme. Klaus Behmann also played well under Martin Kossig and was a great member of the Burgtheater for half a century, says Meyer, who added: “After seeing Zeller on stage and in front of the camera it was moments of joy and happiness.”
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