Alexander Neef, General Director of the COC, observed that “It was a privilege to get to know Brian this past fall. The affection and warmth he showed the artists was extraordinary to behold. His Madama Butterfly will be his legacy to the COC.”
He was an original member of the National Ballet of Canada, a frequent creator at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Artistic Director of the Royal Swedish Ballet, the Harkness Ballet, Israel’s Batsheva Dance Theatre and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens.
Karen Kain, Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Canada, said, “I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of charter member Brian MacDonald. As one of the original members of The National Ballet of Canada, Brian was an invaluable part of the company and important to the landscape of Canadian performing arts, as both a dancer and choreographer.”
He also spent 17 seasons with the Stratford Festival as director choreographer and associate director, starting with the satirical romp, My Fur Lady in 1957 and continuing through The Music Man in 1996.
Macdonald will be fondly remembered from his Stratford years for his series of memorable productions of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas during the 1980s, including The Gondoliers, The Pirates of Penzance, Iolanthe, H.M.S. Pinafore and, most importantly, The Mikado, which later toured Canada and the United States, earning Macdonald two Tony nominations in 1987 for Best Choreographer and Best Director of a Musical.
Antoni Cimolino, Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival, recalled “At Stratford, Brian will be especially remembered for reinventing the Gilbert and Sullivan canon. He brought an entirely new and contemporary approach to what, by the early 1980s, had become neglected classics. The result, like Brian himself, was unforgettable.”
A charter member of the National Ballet of Canada, he was forced to withdraw from dancing in 1953 because of an injury to his arm, but he soon shifted his attention to choreography and became a vital force in dance throughout the world, later broadening his horizons to include directing for the theatre and opera.