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Hytner, Sir Nicholas (b. 1956)  
 
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After leaving Cambridge, Hytner's first job was assistant to Colin Graham at English National Opera, one of London's principal opera companies.

Some of Hytner's earliest successes as a professional director were in opera, including productions at National English Opera, Kent Opera, and Wexford Festival Opera.

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Hytner's 1985 production at the English National Opera of George Frideric Handel's Xerxes, to mark the 300th anniversary of the composer's birth, was both a popular and critical triumph. Hytner's 1986 production of the openly gay composer Michael Tippett's King Priam for Kent Opera was later televised in the United Kingdom. Tippett's 1962 opera retells the ancient story of the siege of Troy and, in one scene, presents the homoerotic attachment between Achilles and Patroclus.

Despite such early successes, and occasional forays back into this world, Hytner came to feel that his work in opera became too "timid" and was an "aesthetic mistake." As he explained in a 2012 New Yorker interview, "My premises were wrong. I tried to find the kind of circumstances where I could achieve in the rehearsal room an illusion of spontaneity--a form of spontaneity which was not useful and expressive to opera singers trying to get on with the business of delivering an opera."

Hytner also directed several theatrical productions for Leeds Playhouse, in the north of England, and in 1985 was named an Associate Director of the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, a position he retained until 1989.

Earlier that same year, Hytner received one of his most important, and certainly most lucrative, commissions when producer Cameron Mackintosh hired him to direct the musical Miss Saigon.

Mackintosh later explained, "I had seen several of Nick's opera productions--Handel's Xerxes and Mozart's Magic Flute--as well as some of his classical plays, and he has a marvelously visual point of view."

Miss Saigon, a musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, with lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr., is a loose retelling of Giacomo Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly, now set during the Vietnam War, in which an American marine abandons a Vietnamese woman and their son.

The musical, a follow-up to Schönberg and Boublil's earlier success Les Misérables (1985), premiered at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in London, on September 20, 1989 and closed some ten years later, on October 30, 1999, after more than four thousand performances.

Hytner also directed the New York production, which opened on Broadway at the Broadway Theatre on April 11, 1991 and closed on January 28, 2001, again after more than four thousand performances.

"It just felt like a huge lark," Hytner has said of his experience directing both the London and New York productions. "It was gigantic, and I was into gigantic at the time, so I threw everything I knew at it. It was big, honest, moving, brash, and kind of crazy. I had no idea that it would take off."

The London production was nominated for several 1989 Laurence Olivier Awards, including Best Musical and Best Director for Hytner. The New York production was nominated for ten Tony Awards in 1991, with Hytner receiving a nomination for Best Direction of a Musical.

The musical has subsequently played in multiple cities and embarked on several worldwide tours. It remains one of the most profitable and longest-running Broadway musicals in American musical theater history.

As part of his contract with Mackintosh, Hytner received a percentage of the profits from the musical, leaving him quite comfortable financially. "It was a huge--a massive stroke of fortune," Hytner later exclaimed. "It meant that thereafter I only needed to do what I wanted to do."

In the 1990s, Hytner began a prolific and artistically gratifying collaboration with the British bisexual playwright Alan Bennett when he directed Bennett's adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows (1990).

The following year, Hytner directed Bennett's historical play The Madness of George III at the National Theatre. Although based in fact, the play is a fictionalized account of King George III and his descent into mental illness late into his reign as King of Great Britain and Ireland.

The play opened on November 28, 1991 with Nigel Hawthorne in the title role.

The play was an unqualified success, and a film version was soon after planned.

Supposedly, Bennett would agree to a film adaptation only if Hytner would direct, making his film directorial debut, and Hytner would agree to direct only if Nigel Hawthorne, who had before then mainly appeared in theatrical and television productions, reprised his role as King George III.

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