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Turkish theater loses its greatest actor

25 December 2009 [10:05] - TODAY.AZ
Cüneyt Gökçer, one of Turkey’s most distinguished and prolific stage actors, revered for his performances of Shakespearean characters, died on Wednesday in Ankara. He was 89.
Gökçer died of respiratory failure Wednesday night at Ankara’s Gülhane Military Academy of Medicine (GATA), where he had been receiving treatment for the past nine months, news agencies reported on Thursday.

Gökçer, who brought to life such major characters of the world classical theater repertoire as King Oedipus, Hamlet and King Lear, among others, also headed the Turkish State Theaters, the Ankara State Conservatory, the Turkish State Opera and Ballet and Ankara’s Bilkent University’s department of theater throughout a career that spanned over half a century.

Among Gökçer’s notable stage performances were “Antigone,” “Julius Caesar,” “Twelfth Night,” “Faust” and “The Fiddler on the Roof.” His prolific acting career also included roles in films.

President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay and other top state officials as well as political party leaders and fellow theater artists expressed their grief over Gökçer’s death and offered their condolences in messages released on Thursday, saying, “Turkish theater has lost its greatest actor and its teacher.”

State Opera and Ballet Director-General Rengim Gökmen told the Anatolia news agency on Thursday that Gökçer, apart from his reputation chiefly as a veteran actor of Turkish theater, “was a man who totally belonged to the stage.” “He was a manager and [stage] director who has made enormous contributions to [Turkish] opera. … He directed almost all Turkish operas in their first-ever onstage performances,” Gökmen added, pointing to Gökçer’s seven-year term as the head of Turkish State Opera and Ballet, from 1961 to 1968, during which he introduced around 20 premiere performances, among others.

Gökçer was born in Malatya in 1920 and graduated in 1942 from the Ankara State Conservatory’s department of theater, where he studied under famous German theater actor and producer Carl Ebert.

After working for many years as assistant director in several theater institutions in Germany, Austria, Britain and France, Gökçer was appointed the general director of Turkish State Theaters in 1958, taking over the post immediately after Muhsin Ertuğrul, the founder of modern Turkish theater, and running the institution for 23 years until retiring in 1983.

Apart from acting and heading state and private theater institutions, Gökçer also worked to make opera and theater gain widespread appreciation among the public, introducing such classics as “Fiddler on the Roof” and “My Fair Lady” to Turkish theatergoers for the first time as well as expanding the Turkish theater repertoire by staging plays by Turkish authors and playwrights, including Refik Erduran, Güngör Dilmen Kalyoncu, Recep Bilginer, Necati Cumalı, Aziz Nesin, Yaşar Kemal and Orhan Asena.

Two ceremonies for Gökçer will be held today in Ankara; the first ceremony will be held in the morning at Bilkent University, which will be followed by another gathering at the Ankara Opera House. Gökçer’s body will then be taken to İstanbul, where he will be buried at Zincirlikuyu Cemetery on Saturday.

/Todays Zaman/

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