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Director, dancer and choreographer Brian MacDonald is presented with Lifetime Artistic Achievement award in Ottawa, Friday May 2, 2008.FRED CHARTRAND/The Canadian Press

The esteemed Canadian director and choreographer Brian Macdonald died Saturday in Stratford, Ont. at the age of 86.

Mr. Macdonald, a charter member of the National Ballet of Canada, went on to direct musical theatre, opera as well as the award-winning productions of Gilbert and Sullivan for Canada's Stratford Festival.

Mr. Macdonald was an early recipient of the Order of Canada, later elevated to the status of Companion in 2002, and received numerous awards over his lifelong career which started when he was a child actor for CBC Radio.

Born May 14, 1928 in Montreal, he leaves behind his wife of 50 years, the former Les Grands Ballets Canadiens ballerina Annette av Paul, and his son from an earlier marriage, Wyatt Macdonald.

A stern task master with a strong, defined perfectionist streak, Mr. Macdonald still worked collaboratively with many Canadian artists including the composers R. Murray Schafer and Gilles Vigneault, as well as visual artists and designers like Robert Prévost and Walter Redinger.

A former dancer, Mr. Macdonald's best partnerships were formed at the ballet, including the National Ballet of Canada, which he joined in 1951 under then-director Celia Franca. In 1956 he founded his own company, the Montreal Theatre Ballet.

In 1957 Mr. Macdonald directed the McGill satirical review, My Fur Lady, which toured Canada with 400 performances in 82 venues.

Mr. Macdonald worked with the country's leading dance companies, including Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

He also had a long and fruitful association with the Banff Centre in Alberta, where he served as choreographer, teacher and mentor to several generations of performers for more than 45 years.

Mr. Macdonald had also been artistic director of the Royal Swedish Ballet in Stockholm, one of the oldest and most prestigious classical dance companies in the world, from 1964 to 1967. He then went on to become artistic director of the Harkness Ballet in New York City from 1967 to 1968, and Israel's Batsheva Dance Company from 1971 to 1972.

He created a total of 19 productions at Stratford, including musical theatre and operetta.

Most recently, Mr. Macdonald returned to the stage in October as director of his own production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly for the Canadian Opera Company, which took place in Toronto.

An indefatigable spirit and towering presence in the Canadian arts scene, Mr. Macdonald was a true one-of-a-kind.