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Peter Brook

Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts 2019

Peter Brook (London, Great Britain, 1925 - Paris, Frace, 2022) graduated in Art from Magdalen College, Oxford. When barely twenty, he directed his first productions, The Infernal Machine (1945) by Jean Cocteau, King John (1945) by Shakespeare and Vicious Circle (1946) by Jean Paul Sartre. Between 1947 and 1950, he assumed the direction of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden (London), where he especially attracted attention for his production of Strauss’ opera Salome, with sets and costumes designed by Salvador Dalí. He was appointed director of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (Stratford) in 1962. After having presented the works of Shakespeare with a novel, ingenious approach, he subsequently renounced this position in 1970 when banned from working with international actors. In 1971, he set up residence in Paris and founded the International Centre for Theatre Research (French acronym, CIRT), now called the International Centre for Theatre Creation (ICTC), of which he served as director. He also directed the Bouffes du Nord theatre in Paris between 1974 and 2010.

Considered the best theatrical director of the 20th century and one of the great renovators of contemporary theatre, Peter Brook has worked on stages throughout Europe and in countries including India, South Africa and Iran, as well as directing opera and film. Embracing almost all theatrical styles, his works include titles such as Measure for Measure (1950), The Tempest (1955) and The Visit (1958), as well as King Lear (1962), The Screens (1964), Marat-Sade (1964), Timon of Athens (1974), Ubu Rey (1977), The Cherry Orchard (1981), The Conference of the Birds (1976) and the opera La Tragédie de Carmen (1981). After ten years of preparation, in 1985 he presented Mahabharata, a six-hour theatrical production that marked his definitive consecration. In 1989, on the occasion of Human Rights and Freedoms Year, he premiered Woza Albert!, a drama about racial discrimination in Africa. His latest works include Sizwe Banzi est mort (2007), 11 and 12 (2009), Warum Warum (2010), The Suit (2012), Battlefield (2015), The Prisoner (2018) and Why?, which was premiered in June 2019. Brook is also the author of several theatre criticism books translated into several languages, including The Empty Space (1968), which has become a fundamental text on modern theatre published in more than fifteen languages; The Shifting Point: Forty Years of Theatrical Exploration, 1946-1987 (1987); Evoking (and forgetting!) Shakespeare (2002); There Are No Secrets (1993); The Open Door: Thoughts on Acting and Theatre (1993), and With Grotowski (2009). He has published his memoirs, entitled Threads of Time, in 1998. He has also directed several films, such as The Lord of the Flies (1963), Marat/Sade (1967), King Lear (1971), Meetings with Remarkable Men (1979), Swann in Love (1984) and The Mahabharata (1989), among others.

Commander of the French Legion of Honour and Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Peter Brook has been awarded honorary degrees by several universities and is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, among other such institutions. In addition to the numerous recognitions of his works –Tony, Emmy, Molière, Laurence Olivier Awards, to name a few–, he received distinctions such as the Europe Theatre Prize (1989), the Nonino Prize (Italy, 1991), the Kyoto Prize in Creative Arts and Moral Sciences (Japan, 1991), the Grand Prix de la Mise en Scène de la Ville de Paris (France, 1995), the Praemium Imperiale (Japan, 1997), the Dan David Prize (Israel, 2005), the International Ibsen Award (Norway, 2008) and the Honorary Molière Award (France, 2011).

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