A titan of Russian theatre and opera has died, aged 97

A titan of Russian theatre and opera has died, aged 97


norman lebrecht

October 05, 2014

Yuri Lyubimov, one of the formative directors of Russian theatre and opera, died today in Moscow.

Born in the year of the Bolshevik revolution, he took charge of a moribund Moscow theatre in 1964, renaming it the Taganka. He staged 66 productions there both before being exiled by the Soviet regime in 1984, and after his return.

Abroad, he staged opera at La Scala, Paris and Covent Garden where, after a rivetting Jenufa, he was commissioned to stage a Ring cycle. As he was living in Israel at the time and seemed unwilling to read Wagner’s drama from start to finish, the project aborted after an unhappy Rheingold and a reported falling out with the music director, Bernard Haitink. The rest of the cycle was undertaken unoriginally by Goetz Friedrich.



  • Neil McGowan says:

    A legendary figure in every respect.

    He revelled in the many anecdotes of his extraordinary ways of working. One of the most famous was a production of The Three Sisters – which ends with the girls leaving “for Moscow. For Moscow!”. As they spoke the lines, the back curtain opened – revealing an actual view of Moscow. Lubimov had knocked the back wall of the theatre out – to show Moscow.

    An amazing talent. In addition to his work in the theatre itself, his parallel career as a teacher ensures that his legacy will live on after him.

  • Paul Hernon says:

    Perhaps the juxtaposition of ‘living in Israel’ and ‘Richard Wagner’ may offer a clue as to why he was less than eager to explore the text. He had a bad Russian version but used local friends to examine the German. The local friends were not exactly thrilled to be doing such work. Daniel Barenboim will understand.

  • Paul Hernon says:

    I hope that you are not attributing those attitudes to me. Wagner has been a great part of my life. Israel less so but one must try to understand.