The sad news came yesterday of the death, at the age of seventy-six, of the opera director Nikolaus Lehnhoff. Lavishly cultured and innately musical, Lehnhoff occupied a middle ground between traditional and radical approaches to directing opera. Schooled in that inexact science by Wieland Wagner, among others, he seldom slavishly followed indications in the libretto, nor did he impose a soundbite-ready concept; he tailored his ideas to the particular dimensions of the work. I was able to see a fair number of his productions live: Salome at the Met in 1990 and 1996, Palestrina at the Lincoln Center Festival in 1997, the Ring in San Francisco in 1999 (though this was extensively revised by Andrei Serban), Jenůfa at Glyndebourne in 2000 and at the Deutsche Oper in 2002, The Makropulos Case at BAM in 2001 (via Glyndebourne), and Die Gezeichneten in Salzburg in 2005. Each left behind at least one indelible stage image that expressed, with intense clarity, the underlying themes of the opera. I recall a disempowered Herod futilely shouting for Salome's death, with no soldiers in sight; Anja Silja, in Jenůfa, furiously folding towels, in a picture of domestic order turning violent; the stomach-churning sight of the raped and murdered children in Gezeichneten, which seemed to unveil a fundamental horror at the heart of power. Many other Lehnhoff productions can be seen on video, some more successful than others, all rich in insight. I met him in 2002, when I was staying at the American Academy in Berlin; he was a man of gentle temperament and searching intelligence, his apartment a kind of private museum of German culture. Those who know German can read a warmly discerning obituary by Manuel Brug.