Entertainment

Jonathan Miller, British satirist and director, dies at 85

British satirist and director Jonathan Miller, whose career spanned over 50 years from the hit comedy review show Beyond the Fringe to directing for some of the world's grandest opera houses, has died aged 85.

'Miller shone a unique light on our art form,' says Royal Opera House director

British satirist and director Jonathan Miller, seen here attending an after party for King Lear in New York in 2004, has died at the age of 85. (Peter Kramer/Getty Images)

British satirist and director Jonathan Miller, whose career spanned over 50 years from the hit comedy review show Beyond the Fringe to directing for some of the world's grandest opera houses, has died aged 85.

In a statement released to British media, his family said Miller died "peacefully at home ... following a long battle with Alzheimer's."

A qualified doctor, Miller decided to put his fledgling medical profession on hold to pursue a life in comedy.

He first came to prominence in the early 1960s when he appeared in the ground-breaking theatrical review Beyond the Fringe with Alan Bennett, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. The show went from London's West End to Broadway, and helped launch a wave of irreverent, satirical comedy that included Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Miller, left, is seen directing a 1980 production of Shakespeare's Taming Of The Shrew. Actor John Cleese looks on, below right. (Associated Press)

Beyond the Fringe's success helped him go on to become presenter of the BBC arts program Monitor and a director of plays at the National Theatre and of television productions, including a 1970 production of The Merchant of
Venice
 starring Laurence Olivier.

He made his directing debut in 1962, with John Osborne's Under Plain Cover and branched out into opera in the 1970s, when he worked for Glyndebourne and English National Opera.

Miller also directed opera for companies including La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Bavarian State Opera and Los Angeles Opera.

In 2016, English National Opera celebrated his four-decade association with the company with the tribute "Marvellous Miller."

"Jonathan Miller was one of the most important figures in British theater and opera of the past half century," the Royal Opera House's director of opera Oliver Mears said in a statement.

"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."

BBC Director General Tony Hall said Miller was "a creative genius whose imagination knew no bounds ... he brought arts and culture to millions on the BBC."

Miller was made a Knight Bachelor in 2002 for services to music and the arts. He is survived by his wife Rachel, children Tom, William and Kate and several grandchildren.

With files from the Associated Press

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.