Sad news: Jonathan Miller has died

Sad news: Jonathan Miller has died


norman lebrecht

November 27, 2019

The theatre and opera director died at home this morning, aged 85.

A doctor by training, the son of an Orthodox Jewish psychiatrist and a novelist, he got involved with satire at Camberidge and became hooked on theatre and opera. His Rigoletto and Mikado were groundbreaking hits at English National Opera, and his Boheme there remains greatly underrated. His Cosi fan tutti ran 20 years at the Royal Opera House.

He and I had fun together on various occasions, most notably in a 2009 Lebrecht Interview for BBC Radio 3. He was cheerful, challenging, forthcoming and always thoughtful, his emotions never far from the surface.

Here’s what I wrote about him at the time.

The last time I left his house he insisted on walking me down, near midnight, through a clutch of drug dealers around Camden Town.

He knew no fear.

May God – whom he refused to believe in – rest his soul. He always kept an open mind.


  • Paul Dawson says:

    Goodbye, sir. Or is it….. au revoir?

  • Mario lutz says:

    thank you Norman to share your memories, also without fear…

  • Talking the Talk says:

    ” May God – whom he refused to believe in – rest his soul. He always kept an open mind.”

  • Jeremy Wardle says:

    I loved this story in the interview…

    “Roger Norrington called and asked him to work with Kent Opera. ‘But I can’t read music,’ protested Miller. ‘That’s all right, I can,’ laughed the conductor.

    • batonbaton says:

      RN might know how to read it, but pity he’s terrible at conducting it…. vibratoless anything is just lifeless noise, as he’d know if he had ears.

  • Catantelirico says:

    Very sad news indeed. The smartest man to ever direct an opera, a gentleman of a bygone era and perhaps the wisest man I have ever met or worked with. Rest In Peace. We shall not see your likes again.

  • Bostin'Symph says:

    A wonderful, rational humane man, with a wicked sense of humour, or a humorous sense of tongue-in-cheek wickedness. Alan Bennett says Miller used to invite Jehovah’s Witnesses in to have a good argument with them. It is sad that we have lost such a spirit in this world.

  • Uzi Shalev says:

    RIP, Jonathan Miller. A true Renaissance man.

  • Tiredofitall says:

    I was fortunate enough to have several memorable lunch conversations with Mr. Miller in the Met cafeteria during the rehearsals for Figaro twenty years ago. He was a totally unique person, beyond my intellectual pay-grade. He gave the Met a beautiful and thoughtful Figaro (unbelievable cast in comparison with today’s Met – Fleming, Bartoli, Mentzer, Terfel, and Levine) which they sadly replaced with a forgettable dead-on-arrival new production. RIP

    • John Rook says:

      His Figaro was the first opera I ever saw. It was at ENO, as it happens. Must have been the mid-1970’s. Beautiful production. Was only telling someone about him and the rest of the Beyond The Fringe team last night. Farewell to another great brain. When I think of Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, JM, Clive James and the rest of their ilk I really don’t feel the generation in question is being adequately replaced.

  • Bill Ecker says:

    How tragic for such a fertile mind to have suffered from Alzheimer’s disease in his later years.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    A unique individual; erudite, funny and outspoken. Glad he walked amongst us.

  • Amos says:

    From Beyond The Fringe to opera production; what could be a better way to spend a life.

    • dd says:

      Beyond the Fringe (Complete)
      The Miller Tapes
      Saturday Night Clive 
      – Clive James interviews Jonathan Miller
      Gemma Wood

  • Patrick John Gordon Shaw says:

    A MAGNIFICENT Legacy – Thank You, Doctor Miller!

  • For my entire adult life, I have admired Miller as the embodiment of intellect and wit. Please add to his list of outstanding accomplishments on stage and film, the brilliant 1978 television series “The Body in Question” in which he eloquently explains the operations of the human body and, most with subtle insight, the human mind.

  • Gary McMahon says:

    Such a loss to this ailing culture. JM was a champion of distance learning just by default, just by going about his business. As a working class teen with no route to university I was grateful for his inspiration that lasted for decades. I’m going to miss this man. Yes, and on top of all those eclectic gifts, what a great face he had.

  • dd says:

    if only Dr M had gone Beyond his Fringe of Allopathy, as his illness was not ‘instantaneous’ as those of us who have had with high impact head traumae, where you wake up the next day as smart as a bag of hammers…Dr.M had forewarning …pity he didn’t attack his salvation protocol as he had past plays&Opera…the following is but the tip of the iceberg:
    Reversing Alzheimer’s Disease- Dr. Dale Bredesen, MD
    Silicon Valley Health Institute


    ReCODE: The Reversal of Cognitive Decline

    Dr. Dale Bredesen’s ReCODE protocol evaluates 150 factors known to contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. This identifies your disease subtype or combination of subtypes, and an effective treatment protocol can be devised
    Type 1 Alzheimer’s is primarily caused by inflammatory factors; type 2 involves atrophic responses; type 1.5 is a mix of inflammation and atrophy, and type 3 is primarily caused by toxic exposures
    Only 5 percent of Alzheimer’s cases are “familial” Alzheimer’s disease, a genetic condition that causes early onset Alzheimer’s; the rest are caused by lifestyle factors over which we have a great deal of control; hence, we have the ability to improve or even reverse most cases of the disease
    By Dr. Mercola

    It is now irrefutable the Cannabis possesses vast healing potential for A LOT of mental & physical conditions that modern medicine is drastically inferior in treating. But how does Cannabis work? How does it take effect when we consume it? The secret to this lies in the Endocannabinoid system of our bodies – a complex system of interdependent neurotransmitters and endogenous chemicals, and the series of receptors that transmit them.

  • dd says:

    ‘So Long, Jonathan Miller
    NOVEMBER 28, 2019
    by the gentle author
    A few years ago I met Jonathan Miller, the comedian, polymath and celebrated intellectual who died this week at the age of eighty-five, when he came in search of his East End roots…’