German actor Harzer receives enigmatic top theatre prize

VIENNA: Jens Harzer (pictured), was honoured as the best German-speaking living stage actor on Sunday in Vienna when he received the Iffland Ring, a diamond-studded award with mysterious origins that is passed on after the death of each bearer. The decision to give the ring to the 47-year-old German actor was not made by jury or an online poll, but according to the will of its previous bearer, the late Swiss theatre and film star Bruno Ganz. The Iffland Ring is a “secret legacy” that is bestowed without outside influence from critics or public opinion, said Karin Bergmann, the director of Vienna’s Burg theatre stage where the award ceremony took place.

Harzer is an acclaimed ensemble member of the Thalia Theatre in Hamburg and has also performed at the Salzburg Festival, an annual opera and theatre event that draws top talent from across the world. He is known to international television viewers for appearing in the thriller series Babylon Berlin, in which he plays a doctor treating shell-shocked veterans after World War I. Now that Harzer has received the ring, he has to write the name of his successor in a sealed letter that will be kept by Austria’s Culture Ministry, where it will be opened only upon his death. In this way, he will extend a lineage of actors that goes back to the early 19th century. — DPA