Jean Pierre Ponnelle, born in Paris in 1932, was one of the most important directors of musical theatre and an innovative stage and costume designer. He began his theatre career in 1950 as a stage and costume designer with the set of "Jack Pudding" by Hans Werner Henze at the Wiesbaden State Theatre. This was followed by engagements in Berlin (working with Carl Ebert at the Städtische Oper and with the choreographer Tatjana Gsovsky), Düsseldorf (working with Karl Heinz Stroux), Baden-Baden, Hamburg, Paris and San Francisco, among others. In 1961 he took on his first directing role with "Caligula" by Camus at the Düsseldorf Schauspielhaus. Ponnelle's first opera direction was "Tristan und Isolde" by Richard Wagner at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in 1963. Between 1972 and 1981 he created eight productions here, including Verdi's "Rigoletto" and a Rossini cycle. His international breakthrough came in 1968 with Rossini's "Il barbiere di siviglia" under Claudio Abbado at the Salzburg Festival. Ponnelle's oeuvre includes over three hundred productions and sets. From the mid-1960s onwards, he worked almost exclusively as an opera director, creating world-class interpretations. These included the famous Mozart cycles in Cologne (with István Kertész, among others), in Salzburg (with James Levine, among others), in Zurich (with Nikolaus Harnoncourt) and in Paris (with Daniel Barenboim), as well as his discoveries of the music dramatist Claudio Monteverdi and the Rossini interpretations with Claudio Abbado. Many of his opera productions and settings have crossed the stages of the world. Opera films for UNITEL, some of which he shot on historical locations, are lasting documents of the director and set designer Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. In the summer of 1988, he fell into the unsecured orchestra pit during rehearsals in Tel Aviv. He died a few weeks later in a Munich hospital of heart failure on 11 August 1988.