Theatre and Opera director and writer Sir Jonathan Miller has died today aged 85. His family announced in a statement this afternoon that Sir Jonathan passed away “peacefully at home… following a long battle with Alzheimer’s”.
Sir Jonathan had many strings to his bow, and although he was perhaps best known for his work in theatre and comedy, he was also an author, sculptor, photographer, broadcaster and qualified doctor – having studied medicine at Cambridge university.
As a young man, Sir Jonathan made up one quarter of famous satirical review Beyond The Fringe alongside Alan Bennett, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. After their premiere at the 1960 Edinburgh Fringe, Beyond The Fringe came to the West End and Broadway.
Sir Jonathan directed many critically acclaimed Shakespeare productions, including his production of The Merchant Of Venice at The National Theatre, starring Laurence Olivier as Shylock and styled in modern dress.
He was the Artistic Director of The Old Vic from 1987 – 1990, and directed more than 50 opera productions over a four-decade career. He’s also directed operas for The Glyndebourne and The New York Met. His production of Verdi’s Rigoletto set in 1950s New York Mafia culture is still in the ENO’s repertoire.
Oliver Mears, the Royal Opera House’s director of opera said the Sir Jonathan was “one of the most important figures in British theatre and opera of the past half century.
“Combining a supreme intellect with a consistently irreverent perspective, formed from his experiences in both comedy and medicine, Miller shone a unique light on our art form.
“His intolerance of inauthenticity and laziness on stage was matched by the urgency and rigour of his search for the composer’s vision, historical accuracy and psychological truth – resulting in so many productions which have stood the test of time.”
Sir Jonathan Miller won the Olivier Award for Best Director for his direction of Chekhov’s Three Sisters in the awards’ inaugural year in 1976. He was awarded a CBE in 1983 knighted in 2002 for his contributions to music and the arts.
He is remembered as an erudite and unique performer, orator, writer and director, who has left no small mark on the landscape of modern British theatre.