American director, an Oscar and Tony Award nominee. Her productions include musicals, Shakespeare’s plays, classic operas and films.
Coming from Newton, Massachusetts, Taymor became interested in theatre very early in her life, and already at the age of nine, she was working with the Boston Children’s Theatre. While at high school, she became fascinated with the world, thanks to international journeys organised by the Experiment in International Living, including trips to Sri Lanka and India. She also went to Paris to study at L'École Internationale de Théâtre under the legendary teacher, Jacques Lecoq. This is where she encountered pantomime. In the years 1975-1979, she travelled to Japan and Indonesia thanks to a Watson Fellowship grant and started a dance-mask group there, called the Loh Theatre, which comprised Javanese, Balinese, Sundanese, French, German and American actors, musicians, dancers and puppeteers. The group travelled across Indonesia with two original performances: Way of Snow and Tirai, which were later staged in the United States. Taymor graduated from Oberlin College, where she studied mythology and folklore, and where she became a member of the prestigious students’ association, Phi Beta Kappa.
Taymor debuted as a feature film director in 1999, with the motion picture Titus, a film adaptation of Shakespeare’s play Titus Andronicus, starring Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, Alan Cumming and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. She adapted the screenplay and produced the movie, which was nominated for an Oscar for costume design.
Leading Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina in Frida, the story of the famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, brought her the critics’ acclaim. The film received six Oscar nominations and won two Academy Awards – for the best make-up and the best original score. Frida also received a BAFTA Award, two Golden Globe nominations (and received the award in the Best Original Score category) and two nominations for Screen Actors Guild Awards. The movie’s premiere was held during the Venice Film Festival, where the picture received the Mimmo Rotella Foundation Award.
Taymor became famous and popular after directing The Lion King, first staged on Broadway in 1997. It has been played continually since then, and tickets sold to date have earned an astronomical amount of six billion dollars. The Lion King has been presented in 63 cities of about a dozen countries and more than 45 million viewers have seen in all over the world. It also gained the critics’ acclaim.
In 2007, Taymor was nominated for a Golden Globe in the Best Musical/Comedy categories and for an Oscar for costume design, for Across the Universe. Composed on the basis of 35 Beatles’ songs, apart from the actors in the leading roles, the film features Evan Rachel Wood and Jim Sturgess, as well as Bono, Joe Cocker, Eddie Izzard and Salma Hayek, and the Beatles’ music tells two stories simultaneously – a private one and the story of the entire generation. Taymor not only directed the film, but was also the screenplay’s co-author.
Taymor is well-known as a theatre director. Her original musical play, Juan Darién: A Carnival Mass, presented at the Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater in 1996, received five Tony Award nominations, including the Best Director category. It was also presented during the Edinburgh International Festival and festivals in France, Jerusalem and Montreal, as well as for a longer period in San Francisco.
The first opera directed by Taymor was Stavinsky’s Oedipus Rex for the Saito Kinen Orchestra in Japan, conducted by Seiji Ozawa in 1992. The leading roles were played by Philip Langridge as Oedipus and Jessye Norman as Jocasta. Taymor also directed the film adaptation of the Oedipus Rex opera, the premiere of which was held during the Sundance Film Festival, and which received the Jury Award at the International Festival of Films on Art in Montreal. The film was screened worldwide in 1993, won three Emmy Awards and an International Classical Music Award for the best opera production in 1994.
In 2000, Taymor directed Carl Gozzi's The Green Bird on Broadway (previously presented by the Theatre for a New Audience group), and Shakespeare’s play, Titus Andronicus, directed by Taymor was staged by the Off-Broadway Theatre for a New Audience in 1994. Other plays directed by Taymor include: The Tempest, The Taming of the Shrew, The Transposed Heads, based on Thomas Mann’s novella and produced in co-operation with the American Musical Theater Festival and the Lincoln Center, and Liberty’s Taken, an original musical created together with David Suehsdorf and Elliot Goldenthal.
Taymor also directed Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman for the Los Angeles Music Center Opera in co-operation with the Houston Grand Opera and Strauss’ Salome for the Mariinsky Theatre for the purposes of performances in Russia, Germany and Israel, conducted by Valery Gergiev. Her first director’s version of The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflote) was presented during the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Festival in Florence in 1993, and the orchestra was conducted by Zubin Mehta. More than ten years later, in 2004, the premiere of The Magic Flute was held in the Metropolitan Opera. The performance belongs to the opera’s regular repertoire. A shortened version of the work, based on a new translation, was first presented in the Metropolitan Opera in December of 2006 and, in 2010, inaugurated a new PBS series entitled Great Performances at the Met, as well as a series of transmissions, The Met: Live in HD, screened in cinemas. In 2006, the premiere of Taymor’s original opera entitled Grendel was held – it is a work permeated with black humour, a new version of Beowulf’s legend, based on James Gardner’s novel. The music, commissioned by the Los Angeles Opera and the Lincoln Center Festival, was composed by Elliot Goldenthal. The opera also found itself among the Pulitzer Prize for Music finalists in 2007.