MOSCOW — Pyotr Fomenko, one of Russia's most celebrated directors known for his inventive adaptation of the classics, has died in Moscow at the age of 80, city officials said on Thursday.
"Pyotr Fomenko died today," a spokeswoman for Moscow's culture department told AFP.
In 1998, he founded the Pyotr Fomenko Workshop Theater that quickly grew into one of the country's most renowned companies known in Russia and abroad for its sophisticated interpretation of the Russian and international classics.
The director's death was "a huge, irreplaceable loss for Russian culture and for the theatre that he created and devoted his life to serving," President Vladimir Putin said in a telegram of condolences.
In a career spanning more than 50 years, Fomenko staged more than 60 productions, ranging from classics by Tolstoy and Chekhov to contemporary works by heroes of the thaw such as Andrei Voznesensky and Alexander Tvardovsky.
"Pyotr Fomenko was an uncompromising director and that refusal to compromise appeared right at the start of his career," wrote the Kommersant business daily, saying he was initially expelled from a Moscow drama school for "hooliganism."
Soviet cultural officials frowned on his first productions, which were banned after a few stagings. Critics slammed him as a "defiler of the ashes of the Russian classics."
He spent years without an official position before being hired by the Leningrad Theatre of Comedy, where he worked until 1981. He then returned to Moscow where he taught and began staging productions at different theatres.
His own Moscow theatre, whose intake grew from his own students, became one of the most popular and critically praised for imaginative and ironic productions that gave Russian classics a contemporary spin.
The theatre initially had no fixed home, before city authorities in 1997 handed it a cramped former cinema. The city then funded spacious new premises which opened in 2008.
Fomenko worked widely abroad, notably in France where in 2003 he was invited by the Comedie-Francaise to stage Alexander Ostrovsky's "The Forest" using its French actors. He also worked in Poland and Austria.
Fomenko died while he was working on a new production of national poet Alexander Pushkin's play "Boris Godunov".
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