Götz Friedrich, head of the Deutsche Opera in Berlin for almost two decades, has died aged 70.
Friedrich, who won great acclaim for his stage productions of works by Wagner and Verdi in particular, lost his fight for life on December 12 after battling with cancer. The London Times this week described him as "one of the most powerful influences on opera in the second half of the 20th century".
Born in Naumburg, in what became East Germany, in 1953 he went to the Komische Oper in East Berlin to work under Walter Felsenstein. His own career as a director began in 1958 with a production of Così fan tutte in Weimar, the university town where he had studied theatre.
In 1972 Friedrich defected to the West. His name was removed from the Komische Oper posters of his productions, and he did not return there until after the removal of the Berlin Wall. In the year he defected, Friedrich made his debut at Bayreuth with Tannhäuser; Lohengrin and Parsifal followed. It was Wagner, too, which brought him to Covent Garden in 1974 for a remarkable production of the Ring, conducted by Sir Colin Davis. In 1977 Friedrich was appointed principal producer at Covent Garden.
Friedrich left the Garden in 1981 when he was offered the job of running the Deutsche Oper, although he returned in the late 1980s and 1990s for the Ring and Elektra. From 1981 until his death he was general director of the Deutsche Oper in West Berlin. But he was involved in many projects outside Berlin. In 1986 he was responsible for an Otello with Domingo, one of the productions which opened the Los Angeles Opera. At the Salzburg Festival he mounted the first production of Luciano Berio's Un re in ascolto.
Friedrich is survived by his second wife, the soprano Karan Armstrong, who appeared in a number of his productions, and by a son from each marriage. His last production, of Gian Carlo Menotti's children's opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, opened on Friday in Berlin.
Fri Dec 15 2000 (4:47:53 PM)