German theatre director Schlingensief dies at 49 (Roundup)
Aug 21, 2010, 17:58 GMT
Gelsenkirchen, Germany - Christoph Schlingensief, 49, the quirky German operatic and theatre director, died on Saturday in Berlin, his wife Aino told the German Press Agency dpa.
Schlingensief, who gained international attention with his intellectual production of Parsifal for the Wagner summer opera festival in Bayreuth in 2004, had been suffering from lung cancer since 2008.
A relapse at the start of July prompted him to cancel all work, including production of a new show that was to reflect on his efforts to create a 'village of opera' in the West African nation Burkina Faso. The show was to combine video, live actors and music.
Schlingensief was a star of Germany's state-funded theatre world, where directors ignore mass taste and focus on highbrow audiences who expect their theatre to shock and disturb.
He rose to public prominence with guerrilla-style performance art on city streets by his own acting troupe that puzzled shoppers.
Wagner fans were at first shocked when he was hired to stage an opera at Bayreuth, blending in conceptual art and video, but German critics were impressed, and he reprised the production till 2007.
One critic once said he was the sort of theatre figure who one person might consider a 'nutcase' and another person a genius.
Starting in the 1990s, he also made experimental films for German arts audiences, and for a time he had a TV talk show.
His last major production was the Via Intolleranza II 'opera project' by Luigi Nono in the Belgian capital Brussels this year.
He was engaged to curate the German pavilion at next year's Biennale in Venice. Others will now have to complete his plans.
Germany's arts writers have hailed his Burkina Faso opera village - building work began this year - as a landmark in German aid to Africa.
The German director's long battle with lung cancer has been major news in Germany.
The energetic Schlingensief had published his cancer diaries describing the operations and therapy that seemed to be beating his cancer and his doubts as he stared death in the face.
He married Aino Laberenz, a longtime assistant, last year.
Among his notable innovations was engaging intellectually disabled people for his theatre troupe.
'You're just like me,' he once told one of the handicapped women. 'We're all sick.'