Britain's Peter Brook wins top Spanish award

Britain's veteran theatre director Peter Brook has won Spain's top arts prize, the Princess of Asturias award

Britain's prolific theatre director Peter Brook on Wednesday won Spain's top arts prize, the Princess of Asturias award, as "one of the great renovators of the performing arts".

"Peter Brook opened new horizons to contemporary dramaturgy, contributing decisively to the exchange of knowledge between cultures as different as those of Europe, Africa and Asia," the jury said in a statement.

Considered "the best theatre director of the 20th century," the 94-year-old recipient of Tony and Emmy awards "continues to intensely move audiences through stagings that display great purity and simplicity," it added.

Best-known for his 1985 masterpiece "The Mahabharata", a nine-hour version of the Indian religious epic, Brook had moved to Paris in the 1970s, where he created the experimental Bouffes du Nord theatre.

"It is a great honour to have been chosen for this most prestigious award," Brook said in a statement.

"Ever since my first visit many, many years ago, Spain has had a very, very special place in my heart. I have travelled from North to South, from East to West, for work and for pleasure. And with each journey, I have encountered many new and wonderful things."

Born in London on March 21, 1925, he was directing professionally at the age of 17.

Brook was an established director of the works of Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw and Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen by his early 20s, and of Broadway hits when not yet in his 30s.

Brook directed productions for London's Royal Opera House, known for putting on Richard Strauss' opera Salome in 1949, with sets and costumes created by Spain's superstar surrealist artist Salvador Dali.

The New York Times said in 2005 that Brook was one of the most successful directors "at bringing avant-garde approaches in acting and staging to institutional theatres and thus to mainstream audiences".

"The result was revolutionary; the staging of the classics was forever altered," it said.

The Princess of Asturias Foundation awards the annual arts prize for a "contribution to the cultural heritage of mankind", along with awards in seven other categories.

Other recent winners include US film-makers Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, US architect Frank Gehry and Austrian film-maker Michael Haneke.

The awards ceremony will be hosted by Spanish royalty in October in the northern city of Oviedo, the headquarters of the foundation which takes its name from the heiress to the throne, Princess Leonor.