Jonathan Miller


By Jeremy Miles

DOCTOR, satirist, actor, author, lecturer, writer, director - Jonathan Miller has packed an extraordinary amount into the past 45-plus years.

He qualified as a doctor of medicine in 1959 but changed course for the theatre when he was invited to join Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett in a new satirical revue called Beyond The Fringe. It was a sensation which made Miller a household name.

But it was also the start of a career that would be lead him on a variety of intellectual and artistic adventures.

Tonight it is in his capacity as one of Britain's finest opera directors that he brings the New London Consort's remarkable semi-staged production of Monteverdi's masterpiece L'Orfeo to Lighthouse in Poole.

But he points out that although he has been an acclaimed director of operas internationally for well over 30 years, he didn't actually have any experience of the operatic stage before being asked to direct his first production.

"I had never even been to an opera before I was asked to do one," he told me. In fact, he says almost everything he's ever done has been as the result of a request.

"I never sought anything really. I only left medicine when I was invited to do Beyond The Fringe. Then I was asked to do a play at the Royal Court and then to produce Monitor for the BBC. One thing led to another. I've never gone looking for things. It's all been a sequence of invitations."

The production was originally commissioned by the South Bank Centre in 2003 so, needless to say, Miller has moved on to other projects. In fact he's currently working on an exhibition about the history of camouflage.

He tells me that camouflage was a term first coined during the First World War when aerial reconnaissance started making it easier to track the movement of troops.

Also, the bright red military tunic was becoming something of an embarrassment.

"Once you had a people's army as you did in the First World War You couldn't simply chuck lots of brightly coloured men into warfare and not care about the casualties."

Blimey it could almost make an opera!

© Jeremy Miles 2021