Jonathan Miller in 2013

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Miller was knighted in 2002 for services to music and the arts

Sir Jonathan Miller, the distinguished theatre and opera director who famously starred in the Beyond the Fringe comedy revue, has died at the age of 85.

In a statement, his family said he had died “peacefully at home… following a long battle with Alzheimer’s”.

A man of many parts, Miller was also an author, a photographer, a sculptor, a broadcaster and a qualified doctor.

Born in London in 1934, Miller studied medicine at Cambridge before embarking on a career in the arts.

The catalyst was Beyond the Fringe, in which he appeared with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett.

The groundbreaking revue premiered at the 1960 Edinburgh Festival before transferring to the West End and Broadway.

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Miller (far right) appeared in Beyond the Fringe with Alan Bennett, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore

Its success led to Miller becoming editor and presenter of BBC arts programme Monitor and a director of plays at the National Theatre.

His productions included a modern-dress staging of The Merchant of Venice, with Laurence Olivier as Shylock.

He went on to direct six of the BBC’s 1980s Shakespeare productions, among them The Taming of the Shrew with John Cleese and Othello with Anthony Hopkins.

Despite being unable to read music, he also directed operas for the ENO, Glyndebourne and the Met in New York.

The Royal Opera remembered him on Twitter as “one of the most important figures in British theatre and opera of the past half century”.

Miller, who was knighted in 2002 for services to music and the arts, was witty and erudite but could be cantankerous.

“I’ve got this, I think, unjustified reputation for being grumpy,” he once said, insisting he only objected to “people who are 30 years younger than I am and know 100% less than I do”.

Tony Hall, the BBC’s director general, said Miller was “a creative genius whose imagination knew no bounds… he brought arts and culture to millions on the BBC”.

He was also remembered by BBC Radio 3 broadcaster Petroc Trelawny as “a polymath and cultural giant” whose “contribution to British cultural life was as varied as it was vast”.

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