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Famed theatre director Peter Brook wins prestigious Princess of Asturias arts prize

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By Cristina Abellan Matamoros  with AFP
Famed theatre director Peter Brook wins prestigious Princess of Asturias arts prize
Copyright  Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP   -  

Britain's famed theatre director Peter Brook has won Spain's prestigious arts prize, the Princess of Asturias award, for being "one of the great renovators of the performing arts."

"Peter Brook opened new horizons for contemporary dramaturgy, contributing decisively to the exchange of knowledge between cultures as different as those of Europe, Africa and Asia," said a statement by the jury, "Brook continues to intensely move audiences through stagings that display great purity and simplicity, true to his concept of “empty space.”

Considered "the best theatre director of the 20th century," the Tony and Emmy award winner has also directed opera and film and worked on stages throughout Europe and in countries such as India, South Africa, and Iran.

He's best known for his 1985 adaptation of Mahabharata, a six-hour theatrical production of the Indian religious epic.

The 94-year-old started directing professionally at a very early age, taking on Jean Cocteau, Shakespeare and Jean-Paul Sartre before the age of 20.

He assumed control of the direction of the Royal Opera House between 1947 and 1950, where he put on Richard Strauss' opera Salome with costumes created by the surrealist artist Salvador Dali.

He then moved on to become director of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, in 1962, a position he renounced after being banned from working with international actors. He set up residence in Paris in the 1970s where he founded the International Centre for Theatre Research (French acronym, CIRT), now called the International Centre for Theatre Creation (ICTC). He also directed the Bouffes du Nord theatre in Paris between 1974 and 2010.

The Princess of Asturias Foundation gives the arts prize for a "contribution to the cultural heritage of mankind" and gives out awards in seven other categories.

The awards ceremony is held in the northern Spanish town of Oviedo in October and is hosted by Spanish royalty.

Other winners include US filmmaker Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola.