Gerard Mortier: a protégé remembers

Gerard Mortier: a protégé remembers


norman lebrecht

March 09, 2014

Lieven Bertels, director of the Sydney Festival, is one of countless artists and administrators who looked to Gerard Mortier, who died today for guidance, contacts and – above all – example. Lieven writes this tribute for Slipped Disc:

gerard mortier betty freeman

Vale Gerard Mortier (1943-2014)

Like so many others, as a student I adored his programming at our national opera La Monnaie/De Munt. I fondly remember the many Ursel und Karl-Ernst Herrmann productions, especially the magical Zauberflöte…

As a radio producer I was fascinated by his pan-European understanding of our history and cultural potential. Hie was omnipresent in the story of the birth of our beautiful Bruges Concertgebouw and he energetically supported our programming there.

The image I will remember of Gerard is that of the eternal promoter, the man who never ceases to believe in the beauty and the deeper values of performing arts, but is not afraid of rolling up his sleeves. On a dark winter evening he had attended a concert at our Concertgebouw in Bruges, driving from Duisburg. We held a small drinks function backstage for the conductor and soloist, from which, to my disappointment, he seemed to have disappeared… only to return 45 minutes later, all sweaty and out of breath because he had suddenly remembered he had two heavy boxes of freshly printed Ruhrtriennale brochures in the boot of his car which was of course parked right at the other side of town. Such was his dedication that he fetched them regardless, and singlehandedly gave each and every one of our guests his beautiful brochure.

From Brussels via the Salzburg Festival, the Ruhr Triennale and the Paris Opera to Teatro Real, his career is an example to us all.


gerard mortier betty freeman



  • Sylvester B. says:

    … “of course parked right at the other side of town” ? Strange. The (sorry did you say beautiful?) Concertgebouw has Bruges’ biggest parking beneath it. Seems like myth-making.

  • Lieven, a truly heartfelt tribute to your mentor. It is thanks to people like Gerard that his spirit transcended into your capable mind and hands. Surely he will remain part of everything you do in your administrative career.

  • david says:

    I find it hard to believe that amongst all the distinguished tributes and reminiscences that are coming in now for Gerard, my lasting memory is of the very enthusiastic young man who was making the tea during the rehearsal breaks for my first ‘foreign’ engagement…..A triple bill of Ligeti’s ‘Aventures et nouvelles aventures’, Aperghis’s “Je vous dis que je suis mort” with a youthful James Bowman, and Max’s ‘Eight Songs for a Mad King’……with Boulez’s recently formed Ensemble Intercon at the Opera Comique…of all places!

    Rolf Liebermann and Hugues Gall’s planning in the seventies….who would dare to programme such a tryptich now….probably only Gerard…..he understood the essentials of the whole opera process from tea making to the brokeback mountains.