movie director

Peter Sellars

September 27, 1957


Renowned theater, opera, and festival director, Peter Sellars is one of the most innovative and powerful forces in the performing arts in America and abroad.

A visionary artist, Mr. Sellars is known for ground-breaking interpretations of classic works. Whether it is Mozart, Handel, Shakespeare, Sophocles, or the 16th-century Chinese playwright Tang Xianzu, Mr.Sellars strikes a universal chord with audiences, engaging contemporary social and political issues. Mr. Sellars has staged operas at the Chicago Lyric Opera, the Glyndebourne Festival, the Netherlands Opera, the Opéra National de Paris, the Salzburg Festival, and the San Francisco Opera, among others. Following his iconic stagings of Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi fan tutte in the 1980s, Mr. Sellars established a reputation for bringing 20th-century and contemporary operas to the stage, including works by Olivier Messiaen, Paul Hindemith, or György Ligeti, whom he directed Der grosse Makaber at the Théâtre du Châtelet in 1988.

Inspired by the compositions of Kaija Saariaho, Osvaldo Golijov, and Tan Dun, he has guided the creation of productions of their work that have expanded the repertoire of modern opera. He has been a driving force in the creation of many new works with longtime collaborator John Adams, including Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, El Niño, Doctor Atomic, and, most recently, A Flowering Tree, which premiered in Vienna in 2006.

Other Sellars projects have included a Chicano version of Stravinsky’s The Story of a Soldier; an Antonin Artaud radio play coupled with the poetry of the late June Jordan, For an End to the Judgment of God/Kissing God Goodbye, staged as a press conference on the war in Afghanistan; and a production of the Euripides play The Children of Herakles, focusing on contemporary immigration and refugee issues and experience.

Mr. Sellars has led several major arts festivals, including the 1990 and 1993 Los Angeles Festivals, the 2002 Adelaide Festival in Australia; and the 2003 Venice Biennale International Festival of Theater in Italy. He was artistic director of New Crowned Hope, a month-long festival for which he invited international artists from diverse cultural backgrounds to create new work in the fields of music, theater, dance, film, the visual arts, and architecture for the city of Vienna’s 2006 Mozart Year, celebrating the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth.

Mr.Sellars is a professor in the department of World Arts and Cultures at UCLA and a resident curator of the Telluride Film Festival. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, the Erasmus Prize, the Sundance Institute Risk-Takers Award, the Gish Prize, and was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.