Heltau came as a child to Austria in the Salzkammergut, where he also attended school. His acting training was undertaken at the Max Reinhardt Seminar in Vienna. Then he made his debut in Würzburg, where Fritz Kortner brought him to the Munich Residenz Theater. This was followed by the Theater in der Josefstadt and the National Theatre in Vienna, the Schiller Theater and the Theater am Kurfürstendamm in Berlin, the Hamburg Schauspielhaus and the Thalia Theater in Hamburg. From 1959 to 1961 he was a guest at the Ruhr Festival in Recklinghausen and since 1964 regularly at the Salzburg Festival, where he first embodied the good fellows in everyone besides Walther Reyer.
In 1963, the big breakthrough came as Troilus in William Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida (at the Viennese popular theater, immediately at the Hamburg Schauspielhaus ). In 1965, he played under the direction of Giorgio Strehler the Bassa Selim in the rapidly legendary staging of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio at the Salzburg Festival ( Set and Costume Design: Luciano Damiani, conductor Zubin Mehta, with Anneliese Rothenberger, Fritz Wunderlich u a.), which was shown with Heltau to 1974. For the first time joined by Heltau and Strehler this hitherto neglected role in the foreground. The actor and the director later worked a few more times together, both at the Festival ( Heltau as Henry VI in The Game of the Mighty by William Shakespeare in the Summer Riding School. ) And at the Burgtheater (1974 trilogy of summer by Carlo Goldoni; 1975 The Game of the powerful; 1994 the Giants of the Mountain by Luigi Pirandello ) and at the Théâtre du Châtelet ( Mack the Knife in the french-language version of the Threepenny Opera, 1986/87 ).
Throughout his career, he played in many theaters in Germany and Austria. His successes include the German interpretations of songs by the Belgian Jacques Brel. Even with literary solo programs he can be heard again and again. Heltau is also considered important Wienerlied Artist.
A childhood photo of him was staged in 2006 by the photographic artist Ilse Haider for the new Portrait Gallery of the Burgtheater photographically. Since 2013 hangs a portrait Heltaus that has made his friend Loek Huisman, in the gallery of honor of the Burgtheater.
Heltau played almost all roles of its respective subject. He was Orlando in Shakespeare's As You Like It, played the lead role in Schiller's Don Carlos and the Tellheim in Minna von Barn-helm in Theater in der Josefstadt, Hamlet and Romeo at the Viennese popular theater (directed by Gustav Manker ). There he was awarded the Karl- Skraup price for the presentation of Dr. Jura in Hermann Bahr's The Concert.
At the Burgtheater in the 1970s and 1980s Heltau was one of the most influential protagonists, Arthur Schnitzler's Anatol, Theodor played in flirtation, Sala in The Lonely Way, Kari Bühl in Hofmannsthal's The Difficult, Harold Pinter's Lenny in return, as well as Tristan Tzara in Tom Stoppard's Travesties. Schiller's Wallenstein, he was under the direction of Manfred Wekwerth. In Richard II by Shakespeare Heltau played under the direction of the former castle Director Gerhard Klingenberg. Under the direction of Peter Wood Heltau 1981 was the Mozart in Peter Shaffer Amadeus, 1988-1999 saw him in Maxim Gorky's Children of the Sun under the direction of the outgoing castle Director Achim Benning, in Cesare Lievis staging of Pirandello's Henry IV, he played the title role. His last role at the Burgtheater ( Academy Theater ) was the man in Edward Albee's play Baby Shop, 1999.
At the Theater an der Wien was Heltau of Bluntschli in the Udo Jürgens musical heroes, heroes ( according to George Bernard Shaw). For that he got in 1972, the Kainz Medal of the City of Vienna. He also distinguished himself at that time on records and in his own show evenings as a German-speaking interpreter of songs and chansons of Jacques Brel ( in the transmission of Werner Schneyder and Loek Huisman ), who commissioned Heltau in person to present his work in the German language area. In addition Heltau was seen in numerous television shows, particularly as a moderator in the Circus songs for ZDF. Other musical theater programs were " On d' night, sir ," " But now, sir ," " My people ", " Classical " and " My Time ".
In 1964, the first of many Heltaus LP recordings was: Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther. When culture Weimar He was first seen in 1990 with his Goethe- program at the Goethe- Theater Bad Lauchstaedt and the Goethe House at the woman plan a guest. As a result, he became a member of the Board of Trustees of this festival.
In 1993, Michael Heltau was able to record a great success with the public and press as Professor Higgins in Frederick Loewe's My Fair Lady at the Vienna Volksoper and guested in this role also in the Berlin Metropol theater. Also at the Volksoper he was the Honoré Lachailles in Loewe's Gigi.
At the Theater an der Wien Heltau studied at the request of Riccardo Muti, the Strehler 's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro new one, which was also later seen at the festival in Ravenna.
Heltau is also active as a film actor, as he had in 1954 held a supporting role in the film Schloß Hubertus on a novel by Louis Ganghoferstrasse, played in 1955 with Hans Albers and Romy Schneider in The Last Man, and directed by Otto Schenk with Maria Schneider in the dance, in 1973.