mansouri-sMr. Lotfi Mansouri, the general director of the San Francisco Opera from 1988 to 2001, passed away in late August 2013 in San Francisco at the age of 84. He was suffering from pancreatic cancer.

Prior to SF Opera, he was the general director of the Canadian Opera Company from 1976 to 1988. He spent six years with the Zurich Opera (1960 – 1966) as the stage director, and then worked with the Geneva Opera for a decade.

Mr. Mansouri was a prolific showman and knew the intricacies of the stage business well. He produced and directed numerous operas during his career.

He was passionate about opera. His enthusiasm and energy for his trade was noteworthy. He believed that opera should be accessible and enjoyed by all, and he worked hard towards popularizing opera.

Mr. Mansouri was also an innovator and risk-taker. In 1983 he introduced supertitles at the Canadian Opera Company for the first time. Initially there were some critiques, but before long it got adopted by many opera companies. Supertitles that enable the audience to see the translation of the lyrics projected over the stage, have become a standard in one form or the other in all opera houses.

Mr. Mansouri has also authored two books about opera and his experience in the business:

  • Lotfi Mansouri: An Operatic Journey, 2010
  • True Tales from the Mad, Mad, Mad World of Opera, 2012

Mr. Mansouri was born in Tehran, Iran in 1929. His father who was a conservative and religious businessman, sent him to USA to study medicine. He had no interest in becoming a physician though he finished a degree in psychology at UCLA. His love turned out to be music. He started with singing as a tenor and eventually got into directing operas. Not only he found a way to make a career out of his passion, he helped reshape opera leaving a legacy behind.

Below is a lengthy interview with Mr. Mansouri from 2010 in which he talks about his beginnings and how he got into opera.

He is memorialized with a bas-relief installation at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House main foyer along with this quote of his: “opera is the greatest artistic banquet created by the human mind with something for every taste.”


  1. Lotfi Mansouri, S.F. opera director 13 years, dies, SFGate
  2. Lotfi Mansour, 84, Opera Troupe Director, Dies, New York Times
  3. Lotfi Mansouri, 1929 – 2013, SF Opera