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Friday, 14 June, 2002, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK
Miller: Master of all trades
Sir Jonathan Miller
Miller: Has managed to juggle his many interests
Jonathan Miller, who has been knighted, has carved out a career as a satirist, theatre and opera director, medical consultant, sculptor and writer. BBC News Online looks at how he has managed his many achievements.

In 1961, four Cambridge graduates brought their review, Beyond the Fringe, to the London stage and in doing so, sparked off the so-called "satire boom", changing the nature of comedy forever.

On stage, along with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett - each of whom progressed to much greater things - was a tall, gangling, trainee neurologist, Jonathan Miller, seemingly all knees and elbows.

A kind of wife kennel for rich men

Sir Jonathan Miller on the Royal Opera
It was an impressive cast but, in the ensuing years, it is arguable that Sir Jonathan has eclipsed all of his former colleagues in the breadth and depth of his many careers.

He has, among other things, presented television programmes on science and medicine, directed opera at Glyndebourne, the Met and La Scala, produced stage works at the National or Old Vic, lectured, written and sculpted.

This seemingly effortless ability to flit between careers has been the source of amusement, admiration and - on occasion - irritation.

Dudley Moore and Jonathan Miller
Miller appeared with Dudley Moore in Beyond the Fringe
Jonathan Wolfe Miller was born in 1934, into an intellectual atheistic Jewish family. He breezed through St Paul's public school before going up to St John's College, Cambridge, where he studied natural sciences before preparing for a career in medicine.

But Cambridge Footlights and Beyond the Fringe (which played for a year in London's West end before wowing Broadway for 18 months) intervened - his medical career was laid aside - and Jonathan Miller's cultural odyssey began.

Groundbreaking productions

On his return to Britain in 1964 the offers flooded in. He edited BBC Television's arts programme, Monitor, Laurence Olivier made him associate director at the National Theatre and he directed at Kent Opera.

Rarely a man to say no, Sir Jonathan says that his reputation as a polymath rests on "being pathetically susceptible to someone knocking on my door with a frisbee in their hand saying 'Do you want to come out and play'".

But this reputation rests on much more than mere serendipity. His groundbreaking productions include a Mafia-style Rigoletto for English National Opera, Armani-clad Cosi Fan Tutti for the Royal Opera.

Luciano Pavarotti
He called Pavarotti "massively inert"
There was also the stylish, poignant, yet down-to-earth medical documentary, The Living Body, for BBC TV.

No stranger to controversy, he once called Britain "a mean and peevish little country" with its "acid rain of criticism and condescension".

Other outbursts include an icy put-down for the Italian tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, with whom Miller has constantly refused to work.

"There's no point in trying to build a production around someone who's so massively inert," he once said.

He also descibed the Royal Opera as "a kind of wife kennel" for rich men.

Perhaps this uncompromising stance, combined with an almost sublime understanding of public taste, is the secret of Sir Jonathan Miller's success.

Arise, Sir Mick

Other stars honoured

See also:

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