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Besch, Anthony  

Max Loppert

(John Elwyn )

(b London, Feb 5, 1924; d London, Dec 23, 2002). English director . During his period as an Oxford undergraduate he produced Idomeneo for the Oxford University Opera Club (1947); immediately afterwards he went to Glyndebourne, where he worked (1950–53) as an assistant to Moran Caplat and came under the influence of the producers Carl Ebert and Günther Rennert. Besch’s first professional production was of Verdi’s Les vêpres siciliennes (1953, WNO); thereafter he went on to produce operas at all the main British houses and festivals – he formed a particularly close link with Sadler’s Wells Opera and the New Opera Company (of which he was a guiding figure) – and in most of the world’s main operatic centres. Besch’s skill in economically marshalling stage forces and his acute sense of style very seldom failed him in the enormous number and wide variety of works tackled during a long career. He was particularly associated with the operas of Rossini (his deft, elegantly witty Sadler’s Wells stagings of ...


Chapin, Schuyler G(arrison)  

Ellen Highstein

(b New York, Feb 13, 1923; d March 7, 2009). American impresario and music administrator . He attended the Longy School in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1940–41), where he was a pupil of Boulanger, and then worked for NBC (1941–51). He has held administrative or board appointments with several organizations. He was vice-president in charge of programming at Lincoln Center (from 1963) and general manager of the Metropolitan Opera (1972–5). At the Metropolitan he appointed James Levine music director and John Dexter director of production. He brought new works into the repertory, including Britten’s Death in Venice and Berlioz’s Les Troyens. In 1983 he was appointed to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. His autobiography Musical Chairs: a Life in the Arts was published in 1977.

CBY1974 S. E. Rubin: ‘A Met Understudy Makes it to the Top’, New York Times Magazine...


Geliot, Michael  

Elisabeth Ingles

(b London, Sept 27, 1933; d London, May 12, 2012). English director. After studying at Cambridge, where he was director of the University Opera Group, he worked at Sadler’s Wells (1960–63), Glyndebourne (1960–62), the London Traverse Theatre (1966–8) and the BBC before becoming director of productions at the WNO in 1969. He was later artistic director (1974–8) and principal producer (1978–83) at the WNO, and helped to shape the company into a world-class ensemble, with a challenging repertory which included his production of Lulu (first British company performance, 1971). Geliot staged the première of Peter Maxwell Davies’s Taverner at Covent Garden (1972) and has directed several British premières of other 20th-century works: Henze’s Boulevard Solitude (1962), Hindemith’s Cardillac (1970) and Martinů’s The Greek Passion (1981). He has also translated a number of operas and plays including ...


Hemmings, Peter  

Alan Blyth

revised by John Shea

(William )

(b Enfield, Middx, April 10, 1934; d Piddlehinton, Dorset, Jan 4, 2002). British administrator . He was a Cambridge choral scholar and became president of the University Opera Group. After taking a degree in classics he was repertory and planning manager of Sadler’s Wells Opera (1959–65), general manager of the New Opera Company (1957–65) and the first general administrator of Scottish Opera (1962–77). In the latter post he was responsible, with Alexander Gibson , for the swift rise of the company to become a major force in British opera, and he persuaded many leading singers and producers to work in Scotland. He also organized the company’s move to the renovated Theatre Royal in Glasgow in 1975. In 1977 he became general manager of Australian Opera but gave up the post after two years in Sydney because of policy differences. He was managing director of the LSO from ...


Jonas, Peter  

(b London, Oct 14, 1946; d Munich, April 22, 2020). English administrator. He studied at Sussex University (1965–8), and while a student was an extra and stagehand at Glyndebourne Festival Opera. From 1968 to 1971 he studied at the RNCM and the RCM, and in 1973...


Kastle, Leonard  

Katherine K. Preston

(b New York, Feb 11, 1929; d Westerlo, NY, May 18, 2011). American composer and director . He attended the Curtis Institute (1945–50) and later Columbia University, and studied composition with Szell, Scalero, Menotti and Barber. In 1950–51 he was music director for a Broadway revival of Menotti’s The Medium and The Telephone and for Weill’s Lady in the Dark. Shortly thereafter he was assistant music director for NBC television’s Opera Theatre (1955–9); he also directed his own operas. He taught at SUNY, Albany, from 1978 to 1988. Principally a vocal composer, Kastle received several awards including an NEA grant; his opera The Pariahs, about whaling, was commissioned by the Deerfield Foundation. The Mother Ann operas are about the Shakers, while Desert is based on the life of the Mormon prophet Brigham Young. His music, although harmonically modern, is romantic, tonal and melodic.


Lewis, Brenda  

Bonnie E. Fleming

(b Harrisburg, PA, March 2, 1921; d Westport, CT, Sept 16, 2017). American singing actress, producer, stage director, and teacher. Possessing a wide range of performing skills, she was known for undertaking challenging operatic roles such as Birdie and Regina in Mark Blitzstein’s Regina (1949, 1953, and 1958) and Lizzie in Jack Beeson’s Lizzie Borden (1965). She worked on Broadway, in light opera, on radio and television, and at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Lewis attended Penn State University and was encouraged by its Glee Club director to audition for a scholarship at the Curtis Institute of Music, where she went on to study with Emilio de Gogorza. After her teacher suddenly left the Institute, Lewis auditioned and made her debut with the Philadelphia Opera Company at the age of 19 in the role of the Marschallin in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. A remarkably quick study, Lewis absorbed music and words in any language almost on the spot, a gift to which she attributed most of her early success. In ...


Mansouri, Lotfi  

Peter G. Davis

[Lotfollah ]

(b Teheran, June 15, 1929); d San Fransisco, CA, August 31, 2013 American director and administrator of Iranian birth . After graduating from UCLA in 1953 with a degree in psychology, he turned to opera direction, serving as resident stage director for the Zürich Opera (1960–65) and the Geneva Opera (...


Merrill, Nathaniel  

Frank Merkling

(b Newton, ma , Feb 8, 1927; d Denver, CO, September 9, 2008). American director . He was a pupil of Boris Goldovsky at the New England Conservatory of Music, and also gained experience in Europe with Carl Ebert, Herbert Graf, Günther Rennert and Friedrich Schramm. He made his début in Boston in 1952, when he directed the American première of Lully’s Amadis. In 1955 he joined the Metropolitan, and remained as resident stage director for two decades; he took charge of more than a dozen new productions, many of them in collaboration with the designer Robert O’Hearn. He also worked for the Opéra du Rhin, Strasbourg, in the same capacity, and has directed operas in Vancouver and for the open-air Arena in Verona. He excelled in the deployment of large forces on stage, as in Aida, Die Meistersinger and Les Troyens, all of which he staged at the Metropolitan....


Neuenfels, Hans  

Elizabeth Forbes

(b Krefeld, 1941; d Berlin, Feb 6, 2022). German director. He first directed an opera in 1974, when he staged Il trovatore at Nuremberg. At Frankfurt (1976–80) his controversial productions of two other Verdi operas, Macbeth and Aida, caused a scandal, but his stagings of two 20th-century works, Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten (updated from the Renaissance to the present day) and Busoni’s Doktor Faust (which Neuenfels also designed), aroused enormous interest. Similarly, at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin (1982–6), his productions of La forza del destino (transferred to the period of the Spanish Civil War) and Rigoletto (part of which took place in a cemetery) displeased critics and audiences, while his staging of Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten was well received. In 1989 Neuenfels directed the première of Höller’s Der Meister und Margarita at the Paris Opéra, once more demonstrating his undoubted ability to stage contemporary opera successfully....


Platt, Norman  

Noël Goodwin

(b Bury, Aug 29, 1920; d Ashford, Kent, Jan 4, 2004). English baritone and director . After graduating from King’s College, Cambridge, he studied singing privately with Elena Gerhardt and Lucy Manen and joined Sadler’s Wells Opera in 1946, making his début as Ned Keene (Peter Grimes). His other roles included Schaunard, Monterone, Mizgir (The Snow Maiden) and Mr Page (Sir John in Love). In 1948 he sang Filch in Britten’s realization of The Beggar’s Opera for the English Opera Group, the work of which was a major influence on his subsequent career. He was Vicar Choral at St Paul’s Cathedral, 1948–52, and a founder member of the Deller Consort, 1948–64. In 1969 with Roger Norrington he founded Kent Opera (opera) , of which he remained artistic director for 20 years, his productions ranging from L’incoronazione di Poppea (1969) to Peter Grimes...


Russell, Ken  

Patrick O’Connor

(b Southampton, July 3, 1927; d Lymington, November 27, 2011). British film and stage director . He began his career as a photographer, then became a director for the BBC, making several programmes on music including studies of Delius, Debussy, Elgar and Strauss and a programme with Lotte Lenya. After successes with feature films, he directed a film of The Who’s rock opera Tommy (1974). His first stage opera direction was of The Rake’s Progress in Florence (1982), followed by Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten in Lyons and Madama Butterfly in Spoleto (both 1983), La bohème in Macerata, Faust and L’italiana in Algeri in Geneva (all 1984) and Boito’s Mefistofele in Genoa (1987). Deliberately provocative and always controversial, Russell nevertheless had a wide knowledge of music and theatre which made him one of the most influential directors of recent times. He had claimed that for him opera is ‘the last believable religion’....


Schlesinger, John  

Barry Millington


(b London, Feb 16, 1926; d Palm Springs, CA, July 25, 2003). English director. Educated at Oxford, he began his career as a film actor. He then turned to directing, making several documentaries for television and some celebrated feature films. As associate director at the National Theatre, London, he produced Shaw’s ...


Tracey, Edmund  

Arthur Jacobs

(b Preston, Nov 14, 1927; d London, March 23, 2007). English administrator, translator and librettist. After working as music critic for The Observer (1958–65), he became a director of the Sadler’s Wells (later English National) Opera, with responsibilities for repertory planning and literary texts. He became one of the company’s most prominent translators with such works as ...


Wagner family  

Paul Sheren

revised by Barry Millington, John Deathridge, Carl Dahlhaus, Robert Bailey, Elizabeth Forbes, and Christa Jost

German family of musicians.

Richard Wagner (b Leipzig, May 22, 1813; d Venice, Feb 13, 1883)

Johanna Wagner (b Seelze, nr Hanover, Oct 13, 1826; d Würzburg, Oct 16, 1894)

Siegfried Wagner (b Tribschen, nr Lucerne, June 6, 1869; d Bayreuth, Aug 4, 1930)

Wieland Wagner (b ...


Wagner, Wolfgang  

Paul Sheren

(Manfred Martin)

Member of Wagner family

(b Bayreuth, Aug 30, 1919; d Bayreuth, March 21, 2010). Administrator and director, grandson of (1) Richard Wagner and son of (3) Siegfried Wagner. He studied music privately in Bayreuth and received practical theatre training in Berlin with Emil Preetorius. In 1951, with his brother (4) Wieland Wagner, he revived the Bayreuth Festival after World War II. Until Wieland’s death in 1966 they were co-directors of the festival, Wolfgang assuming responsibility for administration; after that date he took over as sole director.

He began by assisting his brother with his modern, controversial productions, and later staged his own productions, beginning with Lohengrin in 1953; he devoted himself almost exclusively to directing his grandfather’s works. Though clearly influenced by his brother’s reforms, his own productions, up to and including Meistersinger (1981), Tannhäuser (1985) and Parsifal (1989), were more conservative, occasionally incorporating romantic and semi-naturalistic elements. He shared his brother’s love of lighting effects, though some of his productions were criticized as too dark. His ...


Wernicke, Herbert  

Andrew Clark

revised by John Shea

(b Auggen, March 24, 1946; d Basel, April 16, 2002). German director and designer . He studied the piano, flute and conducting at the Musikhochschule in Brunswick, and stage design under Rudolf Heinrich at the Munich Kunstakademie. He began his career as a stage designer for spoken theatre in Landshut and Wuppertal, and then turned to directing his own productions, and to opera. He staged Handel’s Belshazzar at Darmstadt in 1978 and Judas Maccabaeus at the Staatsoper in Munich. His production of Hippolyte et Aricie for the Deutsche Oper, Berlin, was shown at the 1980 Schwetzingen Festival. During the 1980s a series of controversial productions, notably Der fliegende Holländer in Munich, Die Meistersinger in Hamburg and Simon Boccanegra at Basle, established him as one of the leading director-designers of the German avant garde. A fruitful association with the Salzburg Festival began in 1993 and included productions of Monteverdi’s Orfeo...