Quebec's Robert Lepage wins Glenn Gould Prize

Canadian theatre actor, writer and director Robert Lepage has been named the winner of the tenth Glenn Gould Prize.
Playwright, director and producer Robert Lepage, shown in Ottawa last year, has been named the winner of the Glenn Gould Prize. (Clement Allard/Canadian Press)

Canadian theatre actor, writer and director Robert Lepage has been named the winner of the 10th Glenn Gould Prize.

Sometimes referred to as the "Nobel prize of the arts," the award is presented biennially to "an individual for a unique lifetime contribution that has enriched the human condition through the arts," according to the Glenn Gould Foundation.

"I am deeply honoured by this prestigious and generous accolade," Quebec native Lepage said in a written statement. "As I know Glenn Gould did, I believe there is such a thing as a culture of the North and as I was walking to work this morning trying to fight my way through the heavy blizzard that had invaded my fair city, I could somewhat sense his presence in the howling wind and the vanishing footsteps I was clumsily following in the snow."

Spirit of innovation, idealism

Lepage is one of Canada's most renowned theatre directors and producers. A noted innovator who has experimented with elaborate staging and technology for opera and theatre through his Ex Machina production company, he is currently in the process of mounting an epic, multi-year, 360-degree play to be staged at theatres-in-the-round in Canada and Europe.

In 2001 he won a London Critics Circle Theatre Award as well as a London Evening Standard Theatre Award for his production of The Far Side of the Moon at the Royal National Theatre. 

Lepage gained international attention a quarter of a centry ago with his play Dragon's Trilogy about a Québécois artist fascinated with China. In 2009 he directed a follow-up, The Blue Dragon.

His high-profile projects include Cirque du Soleil's Ka and Totem, as well as the widely hailed opera The Nightingale and Other Short Fables. 

Last year Lepage directed a new production of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen for the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

"Robert Lepage is an artist whose dreams have expanded the realm of possibility and whose work transcends all boundaries," said Brian Levine, executive director of the Glenn Gould Foundation. "His work illuminates the human condition in that same sprit of innovation and idealism that motivated Glenn Gould."

The Glenn Gould jury, which included legendary music and entertainment producer Bob Ezrin, award-winning author and essayist John Ralston Saul and screenwriter and director Deepa Mehta, announced the winner Thursday at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto.

Lepage will receive $50,000 and his work will be honoured through a series of public events throughout the year. He will also get to select a young artist to receive the City of Toronto Glenn Gould Protégé prize of $15,000.

Past Glenn Gould laureates include Leonard Cohen, founder of El Sistema Dr. José Antonio Abreu, Pierre Boulez, Yo-Yo Ma, Oscar Peterson and Yehudi Menuhin.