Robert Wilson 1996 Recipient

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Robert Wilson “represents not only a vital American sensibility but one of the supreme theatrical imaginations of our time,” wrote Robert Marx in Opera News, Indeed, the artist, designer, director and author has been acclaimed for his brilliant conceptions and unusual integration of artistic media, combining movement, dance, painting, lighting, furniture design, sculpture, music and text into a unified whole in imagery that is both aesthetically striking and emotionally charged.

Born Oct. 4, 1941, in Waco, Texas, Wilson was educated at the University of Texas, Austin, and at the Pratt Institute in New York City, where he received a B.F.A. in 1966. He studied painting with George McNeil in Paris, and later worked with the architect Paolo Solari in Arizona. Today, his drawings, paintings and sculptures are part of the permanent collections of museums around the world, including the Centre Pompidou, Paris, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Museum of Fine arts, Boston, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and numerous others.

Robert Wilson emerged as a leader of America’s theatrical avant-garde in the 1970s, having gained attention with his landmark, seven-hour production, Deafman Glance, inspired by a deaf-mute child whom he had adopted. Subsequent projects have included the 12-hour The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin, the legendary, Oliver award winning opera Einstein on the Beach with composer Philip Glass, two versions of Death Destruction & Detroit, and the nine-hour, epic international project “the design is the thing—architectural structure, spatial arrangement, physical gesture cum choreography, line, costume, décor, lights—above all, the lights.”

Since 1985, Wilson’s vision has come to include grand opera and adaptations of other playwrights’ works. He has staged and designed many traditional European operas in both Europe and the United States, in addition to presenting innovative adaptations of plays by writers such as Marguerite Duras, Gertrude Stein, Henrik Ibsen and others. His recent works include a solo version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the operas Bluebeard’s Castle (Bartok) and Erwartung (Schoenberg), and a dance piece commissioned by the Martha Graham Company.

In 1992, Wilson established the Watermill Center on Long Island as an international, multi-disciplinary institute for the creation and development of new work in theater, music, film, dance and the visual arts.

Selection Committee

Jonathan Galassi, Chairman – An accomplished translator and poet, as Executive Editor-in-Chief of Farrar, Straus and Girous, he is the editor of many respected writers and poets. He is also a poet in his own right, with published works in The New Yorker and the Threepenny Review. He was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 1989 and has served as an editor for The Paris Review.

David Del Tredici – David Del Tredici is an American Composer. His work has been commissioned and performed by nearly every major orchestra in America and Europe. Louis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland, has provided Del Tredici with the inspiration for a number of best-selling works and won him a Pulitzer Prize.

Julie Taymor – A director of opera, theater and film, a recipient of many awards. She’s directed plays and operas for major companies around the world. She is best known for directing the stage musical, The Lion King, for which she won a Tony for Direction and for Original Costume Design.

Donald R. Spaidal, Trustee