Gerard Mortier: Pioneering opera director whose career was dedicated to breaking traditions and pushing artistic boundaries
Wednesday 12 March 2014
Gerard Mortier was an opera director whose nonconformist style often grated the tradition-bound elite and who became a fiercely avant-garde impresario. Teatro Real in Madrid, where Mortier was serving as artistic adviser, paid tribute in a statement: "He contributed to promoting Spain's operatic and cultural landscape and placing the Teatro Real among the world's leading international opera houses."
A baker's son from a humble background, Mortier was enchanted with opera from early on and tried to revolutionise it at revered institutions, from the National Opera of Belgium to the Salzburg Festival. He became the director of Belgium's La Monnaie in 1981, steering it away from "bourgeois" entertainment and leading it to international recognition and acclaim.
He did so without relying on "star" singers, some of whom he considered little more than hired voices, and instead looked for the best stage directors who would immerse themselves in his vision. At a time when much of opera was still ensconced in the regalia of "old" art, Mortier relied on people such as the director Peter Sellars and composer Philip Glass to extend artistic boundaries. He oversaw a sumptuous renovation of the Brussels opera house and projects such as the world premiere of The Death of Klinghoffer, about the 1985 killing of a handicapped Jewish American by Palestinian terrorists on the cruise ship Achille Lauro.
He succeeded Herbert von Karajan at the Salzburg Festival in 1992, and created a storm with his daring productions. He moved on to Paris as general director of the Opéra National de Paris (2004-09). The plan then was to crown his career at the New York City Opera. When that backfired over financial issues, he went the Teatro Real as artistic director.
At Teatro Real he was behind Charles Wuorinen's opera Brokeback Mountain, adapted from the short story by Annie Proulx, who also wrote the libretto. The opera premiered in Madrid in late January.
Teatro Real said Mortier, who died of cancer, worked to the end, and when he was unable to attend a news conference late last month still managed to send a text so it could be read out. The Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo described him as a "visionary and generous personality," praise echoed by the French President François Hollande, who said, "He never stopped fighting, until the end of his strength, for culture in Europe."
Gerard Alfons August Mortier, opera director and administrator: born Ghent 25 November 1943; died 8 March 2014.
- 1 Student jailed for hacking University of Birmingham computers to improve his grades
- 2 Smartphones are making children borderline autistic, says psychiatrist
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 5 The most powerful passports in the world
Student jailed for hacking University of Birmingham computers to improve his grades
Smartphones are making children borderline autistic, says psychiatrist
Nepal earthquake: More than 1,100 killed across four countries and in Mount Everest avalanche
Royal baby: Live updates as the wait continues for Duchess of Cambridge's second child
Hermann Goering's daughter fails to reclaim items looted by Nazi deputy during WWII
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...