Gerard Mortier with composer Charles Wuorinen October 30, 2013 | Photography (c) Javier del Real / Teatro Real
With news of his death at the age of 70 this weekend, the opera world has been mourning the death of Gerard Mortier, "one of the most flamboyant, contentious and original opera personalities of modern times," as British critic Norman Lebrecht explained on Sunday.
The Belgian-born Belgian prime minister, Elio Di Rupo, led the tributes to Mortier by tweeting: "Our country has lost a visionary and generous figure," while the culture minister, Fadila Laanan, said Mortier's "often non-conformist choices, his audacious programming built his international renown."
Mortier was general director of the Paris opera from 2004 and 2009, and he headed the prestigious Salzburg festival from 1991 to 2001. His last venture was Brokeback Mountain, which he originally commissioned in 2008 for New York City Opera, when he was poised to become its director.
The New York Times' Anthony Tommasini called him "the most fiercely avant-garde impresario in opera" in a story that ran in February with the premiere of Brokeback in Madrid. After he abruptly resigned later that year, he brought Brokeback with him to Teatro Real, where he was the opera company's artistic director.