The former artistic director of Madrid's Teatro Real (Royal Theater), Gerard Mortier, died Sunday from pancreatic cancer, Belgian media reported. He was 70.

Mortier was born in November 1943 in the western Belgian city of Ghent.

During his career, he held various prestigious positions in the world of opera, directing the Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels, the National Opera of Paris, the New York City Opera and the Teatro Real.

Mortier headed the Madrid theater from November 2008 until September 2013 and said he wanted to transform it into a "laboratory for 21st century opera."

But the Belgian's tenure received much criticism and his management style ultimately led to his firing, despite the fact that his contract ran until 2016, and replacement by Joan Matabosch of Barcelona.

Mortier's first position in the opera world was as the assistant director of the Festival of Flanders.

Among his artistic accomplishments was a much heralded version in concert of the only opera by Arnold Schönberg, "Moses und Aron" (2012), a joint project by the then-director of the Teatro Real with the Berlin Philharmonic and the Lucerne Festival, but he also took on a misguided challenge: Russian Dmitri Tcherniakov's staging of "Don Giovanni" (2013).

This version of the work by Mozart solicited a chorus of boos at every performance, a situation that Mortier called an "organized boycott."

The opera director sparked much controversy with his desire to violate current conventions to - as he said - end the stagnation and musical comfort, and thus arouse emotion and reflection, among the Spanish public.

In 2011 he received criticism from the Spanish lyrical theater after saying at a press conference that Spain lacked a "lyrical workshop" to teach "style" to Spanish performers. EFE