The biennial prize was established by the magazine Opernwelt to honour the person who had done most for the art.
When it came to the inaugural award, the judges could find no-one more deserving that the man with his name on the trophy – the flamboyant Belgian director who died in March, aged 70. The presentation, in Garz, was made by the film director Michael Haneke. The award was accepted by Mortier’s long-term companion, the conductor Sylvain Cambreling.
The magazine Opernwelt and the Ring Award (international competition for stage direction and design) have jointly established a new prize for music theatre – the Mortier Award. The prize is named after the Belgian opera and festival director Gerard Mortier, who died on 9 March 2014 at the age of 70. The name-giver, who is also the first winner of the prize, received the honour posthumously.
The presentation of the first Mortier Award took place on 31 May 2014 at the 7th “Ring Award” finals in Graz. The film director and Oscar prizewinner Michael Haneke delivered the eulogy. The conductor Sylvain Cambreling, Mortier’s long-time companion and confidant, accepted a sculpture made for the Mortier Award by the Berlin sculptor and set designer Alexander Polzin, who recently created the set design for “Lohengrin” at the Teatro Real Madrid – commissioned while Mortier was still in charge of the Teatro Real. The sculpture shows Sisyphus with his boulder.
The Mortier Award will be presented every two years. No prize money was attached to the award at the first presentation. Winning the award gives the recipient the right to nominate the next prizewinner – in close consultation with the initiators. Music theatre that keeps pace with the times is by definition dynamic and processual. For this reason, it is intended that each presentation promote the shared continuance of the thematic and intellectual aspirations embodied by the prize
Gerard Mortier was one of Europe’s most influential opera and festival directors. After starting off his career in Belgium, followed by years of apprenticeship in Germany, Mortier, a trained lawyer, directed the Brussels opera house La Monnaie during the 1980s. In the nineties, he modernised the Salzburg Festival. He was then the founding director of the Ruhr Triennale art festival (2002-2004) before going to the Opéra national de Paris. Until recently, Gerard Mortier was director of the Teatro Real in Madrid (2010-2013).
The magazine Opernwelt has been reporting on the international opera scene since 1960. The Ring Award has been taking place in Graz since 1997.