2009 Opera Honors
Born on June 15, 1929 in Tehran, Iran.
Died on August 30, 2013
He led, brilliantly, two of the most important opera companies in North America, and has directed productions throughout the world. But with one small act, with just one word, Lotfi Mansouri forever changed how audiences experienced the art form: supertitles.
He left Teheran, Iran, where he was born in 1929, to study medicine in Los Angeles, but music won out. From 1960 to 1966, he was resident stage director of the Zürich Opera. For the next decade, he served as head stage director at the Geneva Opera, while also directing productions in Europe and the United States. In 1976, Mansouri became general director of the Canadian Opera Company. He introduced Canadian audiences to many works, including Lulu and Death in Venice, and in 1983, revolutionized opera by ushering in supertitles at a performance of Elektra. He moved on to the San Francisco Opera in 1988, where he was general director until 2001. Under Mansouri's leadership, the SFO established the Pacific Visions program to commission new works and to perform little-known ones. The project led to some of the most compelling operas of our time, including Conrad Susa's The Dangerous Liaisons, André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire, and Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking.
One of opera's most influential general directors, Lotfi Mansouri talks about his journey to the U.S. from Iran and how he ended his medical studies to go on to a career that helped reshape American opera.
Mezzo-soprano Frederica Von Stade praises opera director Lotfi Mansouri's for his deep connection to the perfomers, his courage in presenting difficult new works, and for revolutionizing the audience experience with the introduction of surtitles.
Composer Jake Heggie talks about the contributions to contemporary opera by NEA Opera Honoree Lotfi Mansouri, the general director of the San Francisco Opera from 1988-2001.