British satirist and opera director Jonathan Miller dies aged 85

LONDON (Reuters) - British satirist and director Jonathan Miller, whose career spanned over 50 years from the hit comedy review show "Beyond the Fringe" to directing for some of the world's grandest opera houses, has died aged 85.

In a statement released to British media, his family said Miller died "peacefully at home ... following a long battle with Alzheimer's".

A qualified doctor, Miller decided to put his fledgling medical profession on hold to pursue a life in comedy.

He first came to prominence in the early 1960s when he appeared in the ground-breaking theatrical review "Beyond the Fringe" with Alan Bennett, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.

Its success helped him go on to become presenter of the BBC arts program "Monitor" and a director of plays at the National Theatre.

He made his directing debut in 1962, with John Osborne’s "Under Plain Cover" and branched out into opera in the 1970s, when he worked for Glyndebourne and English National Opera.

Miller also directed opera for companies including La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Bavarian State Opera and Los Angeles Opera.

In 2016, English National Opera celebrated his four-decade association with the company with the tribute "Marvellous Miller".

"Jonathan Miller was one of the most important figures in British theater and opera of the past half century," the Royal Opera House's director of opera Oliver Mears said in a statement.

"Combining a supreme intellect with a consistently irreverent perspective, formed from his experiences in both comedy and medicine, Miller shone a unique light on our art form."

BBC Director General Tony Hall said Miller was "a creative genius whose imagination knew no bounds ... he brought arts and culture to millions on the BBC."

Miller was made a Knight Bachelor in 2002 for services to music and the arts.


(Reporting by Stephen Addison; Editing by Mike Collett-White)