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Walther Volbach Collection on Adolphe Appia

Call Number: GEN MSS 1014

Scope and Contents

The collection includes correspondence, writings, newspaper and journal articles, photographs, and publications relating to Walther Volbach's research and writings on Adolphe Appia. Included are over sixty typescript essays, articles, and scenarios by Adolphe Appia, many bearing the stamp of the Fondation Adolphe Appia, Geneve. A typescript of Volbach's translation of many of these writings which was published as Adolphe Appia: Essays, Articles, and Scenarios in 1989, is included in the collection. The majority of correspondence consists of letters received by Volbach in the course of his research from Appia's relatives and friends including Appia's cousins Edmond Appia and Blanche Bingham, Appia's pupil and friend Jean Mercier, as well as librarians and fellow researchers, and colleagues with whom Volbach corresponded regarding publications by the American Educational Theatre Association. One reel of microfilm contains letters to Houston Stewart Chamberlain. A stage design by Appia for Act I, scene 1 of Parsifal is the only original design in the collection; however, his designs are represented by copy photographs that were used as illustrations for Volbach's book, Adolphe Appia, Prophet of the Modern Theatre: A Profile.


  • 1890 - 1969


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 9 (microfilm reel): Use of original is restricted. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Walther Volbach Collection on Adoph Appia is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.


2.79 Linear Feet ((8 boxes) + 1 broadside)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL

Adolphe Appia (1862-1928)

Adolphe François Appia was born in Geneva in 1862, the son of Louis Paul Amédée Appia, a successful surgeon and one of the founders of the Red Cross. While a youth, he became fascinated with the theater, but since his family considered it an inappropriate career choice, he studied music at Geneva, Paris, Leipzig, and Dresden. In 1884 Appia met Houston Stewart Chamberlain and became devoted to the works of Richard Wagner. With the help and encouragement of Chamberlain, he decided to become a designer and stage director.

Although he received scant recognition during his lifetime, Appia is regarded today as the father of modern stage lighting and design. His reforms of the antiquated nineteenth-century practice of stage design emphasized the significance of time and space, the relation of stage and auditorium, and the contrast of light and shadow. He devoted much of his lifework in particular to creating new productions of the operas of Richard Wagner. Appia died on February 29, 1928, in a nursing home near Nyon, Switzerland.

Appia set down his theories on stage set design in two books and several essays, but much of his writing was published only in the 1950s and 1960s. The Fondation Adolphe Appia has as its objective the publication of all his works and the furtherance of his ideas. For further biographical information, see Walther R. Volbach's Adolphe Appia, Prophet of the Modern Theatre: A Profile (1968).

Walther Volbach (1897-1996)

Walther Volbach was born in Mainz, Germany in 1897. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Munster in Westphalia in 1920, after completing his dissertation “The Development of Realism on the German Stage.” In the 1920s he was an assistant to Max Reinhardt at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, and also worked as a stage director of plays and operas at the State theaters in Stuttgart and Berlin, at the Municipal theaters in Zurich, Danzig and Kiel, and at Vienna’s Volkstheater and Volksopera. He also served as an instructor at academies in Berlin, Vienna, and Kiel. After moving to the United States in the 1930s he taught and directed theater and opera in Ohio, Missouri, and Wisconsin. He was a professor in the Department of Theatre at Texas Christian University from 1946 until his retirement in 1965. His publications include Problems of Opera Production (1953); Adolphe Appia, Prophet of the Modern Theatre: A Profile (1968); and Adolphe Appia: Essays, Articles, and Scenarios (1989). He died in 1996.

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.

The collection is comprised of material formerly classed as MS Vault Shelves Appia.

Information included in the Description of Papers note and Collection Contents section is drawn from information supplied with the collection and from an initial survey of the contents. Folder titles appearing in the contents list below are often based on those provided by the creator or previous custodian. Titles have not been verified against the contents of the folders in all cases. Otherwise, folder titles are supplied by staff during basic processing.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Walther Volbach Collection on Adolphe Appia
Under Revision
Beinecke Staff
November 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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Access Information

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