Varujan Kojian, born in Beirut and celebrated in many of the world's major musical capitals, has died in his Carpinteria home. Kojian, most recently music director and conductor of the Santa Barbara Symphony, was 57 when he died Thursday, a symphony spokesman said Monday.
He had been battling pancreatic cancer and was unable to return to work after surgery last October.
He had an international reputation, both on his own and as a protege of Zubin Mehta and a close friend of such artists as pianist Andre Watts and ballet superstar Rudolf Nureyev.
In 1991, when Nureyev was long past the prime of his brilliant performances and nearing his death of AIDS, the dancer exchanged performances for podia and was conducting in Europe. He had been coached by such memorable maestros as Herbert von Karajan, Karl Bohm and his longtime colleague Kojian.
Kojian adjudged what many consider the finest danseur noble of this century "an excellent musician." Over the years Nureyev went to concert halls in Europe and America to watch Kojian rehearse the orchestra that was to accompany his dancing. Similarly, Kojian took time to watch Nureyev mark his routines onstage.