Festwochen showcased his take on 'Butterfly'

European-based theater and opera director Dietmar Pflegerl died in Klagenfurt, Austria, on May 17 after a five-year battle with cancer. He was 63.

Pflegerl studied music and theater in Vienna and Graz and made his directorial debut in Basel, Switzerland in 1970. His career took him to the major stages of Hamburg, Berlin, and Vienna.

For the last 15 years, Pflegerl was artistic director of the regional theater in his hometown of Klagenfurt in the southern state of Carinthia, raising the company from provincial to international status. Pflegerl relished challenging the audiences at Stadttheater Klagenfurt with a mixture of world premieres from important playwrights, classics, updated productions of operas, and musicals.

After directing his first opera in 1998, Pflegerl quickly became noted for the clarity and contemporary twists he brought to standards such as “Tosca” and “La Traviata.” In 2003, the Vienna Festwochen showcased his production of “Madama Butterfly.”

He refused to give in to his illness, directing Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” in October and Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” in January. His production of Maria Goos’s “Cloaca,” created at Berlin’s Renaissance Theater, opened in Klagenfurt the day before his death. He was scheduled to perform in A. R. Gurney’s “Love Letters” later this month.

Among his many awards in Austria and Germany were two Nestroy Prizes, Austria’s highest honor in theater, for his work in Klagenfurt.

He is survived by his wife, Ellen, and a daughter.

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