Sellars, Peter

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Sellars, Peter

Sellars, Peter, provocative American theater producer; b. Pittsburgh, Sept. 27, 1957. His fascination with the stage began at age 10, when he began working with a puppet theater. He later attended Harvard Univ., where his bold theatrical experiments resulted in his expulsion from student theater groups. He gained wide notice when he produced Gogol’s The Inspector General for the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., in 1980. During the 1981–82 season, he staged a highly controversial mounting of Handel’s Orlando, in which the protagonist is depicted as an astronaut. In 1983 he became director of the Boston Shakespeare Co. and in 1984 of the American National Theater Co. at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. In 1987, at the Houston Grand Opera, he produced John Adam’s opera Nixon in China, which he then mounted in other U.S. cities and at the Holland Festival in 1988; that same year, he jolted the Glyndebourne Festival with his staging of Nigel Osborne’s Electrification of the Soviet Union. He oversaw the Los Angeles Festival in 1990. That same year he became artistic advisor of the Boston Opera Theatre. In 1991 he mounted the premiere of Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer in Brussels, and in 1992 Messiaen’s St. François d’Assise at the Salzburg Festival. His staging of Pelléas et Mélisande in Amsterdam in 1993 concentrated on the contemporary themes of sex and violence. His Pelléas et Mélisande was then mounted at the Los Angeles Opera in 1995. In 1997 he returned to the Salzburg Festival to produce Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre. In 1998 he was awarded the Erasmus Prize of the Netherlands.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire