Opera, theater, and festival director Peter Sellars has gained renown worldwide for his groundbreaking and transformative interpretations of artistic masterpieces and collaborative projects with an extraordinary range of creative artists across three decades. Whether it is Bach, Mozart, Handel, Shakespeare, Sophocles, or the 16th- century Chinese playwright Tang Xianzu, Peter Sellars strikes a universal chord with audiences, engaging and illuminating contemporary social and political issues.
Sellars has staged operas at the Glyndebourne Festival, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Netherlands Opera, Opéra National de Paris, Salzburg Festival, San Francisco Opera, and Teatro Real, among others, establishing a reputation for bringing 20th-century and contemporary operas to the stage, including works by Olivier Messiaen, Paul Hindemith, and György Ligeti. 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. Sellars has been a driving force in the creation of many new works with longtime collaborator composer John Adams, including Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, El Niño, Doctor Atomic, and A Flowering Tree. A staging of their latest work, The Gospel According to the Other Mary, was seen in the U.S. and in Europe early in 2013.
Sellars projects in recent years have included critically acclaimed concert stagings of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion and Saint John Passion with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra performed in Berlin, Salzburg, and Baden-Baden, a staging of Nixon in China for the Metropolitan Opera, and new productions of Handel’s Hercules in Chicago and Vivaldi’s Griselda in Santa Fe. Desdemona, a collaboration with the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison and Malian composer and singer Rokia Traore, was performed in several major cities in Europe and the U.S. and presented in London as part of the Cultural Olympiad. In 2012, Sellars directed a double bill of Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta and Stravinsky’s Persephone for Teatro Real in Madrid. For the 2013 Manchester International Festival, he staged Michelangelo Sonnets, a program of Shostakovich and Bach. A recent production,The Indian Queen, combining Purcell music, text, and dance, had its premiere at the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre in 2013 and was presented subsequently by Teatro Real.
Sellars has led several major arts festivals, including the 1990 and 1993 Los Angeles Festivals; the 2002 Adelaide Arts Festival in Australia; and the 2003 Venice Biennale International Festival of Theater in Italy. In 2006 he was Artistic Director of New Crowned Hope, a month-long festival in Vienna 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’s celebration of Mozart’s 250th birth anniversary. Sellars is a professor in the Department of World Arts and Cultures at UCLA and Resident Curator of the Telluride Film Festival. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, the Erasmus Prize, the Sundance Institute Risk-Takers Award, and the Gish Prize, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has been honored by the American Academy in Rome and Opera News magazine.