He started his career as an actor and director with the Haagsche Comedie and founded Theatergroep Hollandia with Paul Koek in 1985. Simons remained the artistic director of this company until it folded in 2005. From 2005 to 2010 and from 2015 to 2017, he was the artistic director of NTGent, and from 2010 to 2015 the intendant van de Münchner Kammerspiele. His recent opera activities include Alceste with René Jacobs, Das Rheingold with Teodor Currentzis and the world premiere of Accattone (which combines texts by Pier Paolo Pasolini with music by Bach) with Philippe Herreweghe at the Ruhrtriennale, as well as Die Fremden, based on Camus’ L’étranger with music by György Ligeti and Claude Vivier. Other operas he has directed include Simon Boccanegra and Fidelio for the Opéra national de Paris, Boris Godunov for the Teatro Real Madrid and Bluebeard’s Castle for the Salzburger Festspiele. In Italy, in 2000, Johan Simons was voted best European director, along with Romeo Castellucci, and in 2009, the University of Ghent awarded him an honorary doctorate. In 2014, he received the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Award for his great services to theatre in the Netherlands and abroad.
Photo: © Edi Szekely