Brian Macdonald, prolific Canadian choreographer and director, dies at 86

Brian Macdonald poses in this undated handout photo. Canada's performing arts community is mourning the death of Brian Macdonald, a Tony Award-nominated choreographer and director who was considered a prolific pioneer in the dance, opera and theatre worlds. Macdonald died Saturday at his home in Stratford, Ont. He was 86. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - The National Ballet of Canada Archives

TORONTO - Canada's performing arts community is mourning the death of Brian Macdonald, a Tony Award-nominated choreographer and director who was considered a prolific pioneer in the dance, opera and theatre worlds.

Macdonald died Saturday at his home in Stratford, Ont. He was 86.

The Stratford Festival, where Macdonald was a company member for 17 seasons, says a funeral will be held in the southwestern Ontario city on Saturday.

The festival also says it plans to hold a memorial on May 3 and dedicate its 2015 production of "Carousel" to him.

Meanwhile, the National Arts Centre says its flags will fly at half-mast this week in honour of Macdonald as well as Paul Buissonneau, an actor and director of who died Sunday at age 87.

National Ballet of Canada artistic director Karen Kain says she's "deeply saddened" to hear of Macdonald's death.

"As one of the original artists of The National Ballet of Canada, Brian was an invaluable part of the company and important to the landscape of Canadian performing arts, as both a dancer and choreographer," she said in a statement.

Born in Montreal, Macdonald got his start as a child actor on CBC Radio and as a choreographer, dancer and director of variety shows on CBC-TV.

In 1951 he became a founding member of the National Ballet of Canada. After an injury, he turned more to choreography and directing work with many renowned venues, including the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Canadian Opera Company, the New York City Opera and the Kennedy Centre.

His memorable productions included "The Mikado," for which he earned two 1987 Tony nominations, for best choreography and best direction.

Macdonald's honours included a Companion of the Order of Canada distinction, the Molson Prize and a Governor General's Performing Arts Award for lifetime achievement.

Stratford Festival artistic director Antoni Cimolino says Macdonald brought "an intelligence, energy and talent to work that shone on the international stage."

"At Stratford he will be especially remembered for reinventing the Gilbert and Sullivan canon," he said in a statement. "He brought an entirely new and contemporary approach to what, by the early 1980s, had become neglected classics. Under his inventive direction, the updated lyrics and movement sparkled with the same creative lustre as the iconic music.

"The result, like Brian himself, was unforgettable."

Macdonald is survived by his wife, ballerina Annette av Paul, and his son Wyatt.


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