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Former De Munt director Gerard Mortier dies at 70

09:27 10/03/2014

Gerard Mortier, who helped turn Brussels’ De Munt into one of the world’s leading opera houses, died over the weekend at home of cancer. He was 70.

Mortier was born in Ghent and studied in law and communications but found his true niche after being given a  job as assistant to Jan Briers, the director of the Festival of Flanders. From there, Mortier went on to work in opera houses in Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Paris, and when he arrived at De Munt in 1981, he had enough international experience to see where he wanted the house to go.

Under his decade-long direction, he turned the obscure De Munt into one of the leading opera houses in Europe. He went on to enjoyed five years at the head of the Paris Opera, but his next move, to the Teatro Real in Madrid, was not successful. He fought against a dismissal last year but never returned to work. A diagnosis of cancer followed.

“Gerard Mortier leaves behind an exceptionally rich intellectual legacy,” said Flemish culture minister Joke Schauvliege yesterday. “May we be ever thankful that he motivated and inspired generations of people in opera.”

“Our country has lost a visionary and generous personality,” tweeted prime minister Elio Di Rupo.

“He remained fighting until the end for culture in Europe,” said French president François Hollande in a statement issued in Paris.


Written by Alan Hope