Festival favourite, opera and theatre director Luc Bondy, has died in Zurich aged 67.
Scotland saw more of the work of the director Luc Bondy than anywhere else in the UK – he specialised in producing large-scale works in major opera houses and the state theatres in Germany.
His visits to the Edinburgh Festival were all on a typically epic scale, as was a celebrated collaboration for Scottish Opera’s Macbeth. The Festival productions in the mid-1990s demonstrated Bondy’s vision, stage-craft and ability to realise grand tableaux on stage.
Bondy made a major impact on the Scottish art scene in 2000 when he agreed to direct Macbeth for SO. It was a tremendous coup for the company and especially for Sir Richard Armstrong, the musical director.
Sir Brian McMaster, the Festival’s director, knew Bondy and approached the director in Vienna about directing Macbeth in Scotland.
His other Festival visits were no less outstanding. In 1994, Bondy staged Peter Handke’s The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other. It had a cast of 33 playing 400 roles.
Sheila Colvin, former associate director of the EIF, remembers the evening with much affection.
She said: “Weird indeed, but so wonderful. I returned my tickets for some other Festival event so I could see it again. It was absolutely extraordinary. And the whole point of it was that there was no dialogue.
“Just all those people, to-ing and fro-ing across and around the stage, interacting or simply passing another by, some rushing, some loitering, lingering.”
In 1998 his “mighty” production of Verdi’s Don Carlos was given by the Royal Opera with a cast led by Julian Gavin and Karita Mattila. In fact when the soprano made her dramatic exit at the end of act one on the magnificent white stallion, the horse invariably misbehaved. But the production was the sensation of the Festival.
In 2002 his production for the Aix-en-Provence Festival came to Edinburgh under Daniel Harding. The ghostliness of the opera was reflected in Bondy’s marked simplicity which brought an essential intensity to the drama.
Bondy was born in Zurich to an intellectual family and educated at a boarding school in the Pyrenees. In 1966 he studied in Paris then got theatre work in Germany, rapidly gaining a reputation for adventurous theatre productions. His opera productions were seen in all the major opera houses of the world: apart from Don Carlos, Covent Garden also mounted Salome (1992).
From an early age Bondy had to cope with the ravages of cancer. Not only did he show immense courage but he refused to disguise the illness. “Why hide? When you’re bald at 25 it normalises things,” he said. He refused to have his life disrupted by the disease and once bravely carried on rehearsing at the Paris Opéra from a bed by the stage.