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Jonathan Miller, satirist and director of opera and theatre, dies aged 85

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Jonathan Miller gestures during rehearsal for his production of Verdi's "Rigoletto" with the English National Opera in 1985.
Jonathan Miller gestures during rehearsal for his production of Verdi's "Rigoletto" with the English National Opera in 1985. -
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Satirist and director Jonathan Miller, whose career spanned more than 50 years from the hit comedy review show “Beyond the Fringe” to directing for some of the world’s top opera houses, has died aged 85.

In a statement, his family said Miller died “peacefully at home ... following a long battle with Alzheimer’s”.

A qualified doctor, Miller decided to put his fledgeling medical career 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.

Its success helped him go on to become the presenter of the BBC arts programme Monitor and a director of plays at the National Theatre.

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 theatre and opera of the past half-century,” Royal Opera House 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.

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