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Director Jürgen Flimm, 80, Whose Boldly Conceived Productions Played in European and American Houses, has Died


AN INNOVATIVE, IMAGINATIVE director of theater and opera, Flimm studied at the University of Cologne before beginning his professional career, as an assistant at the Munich Kammerspiele in 1968. After terms of service on staff at prestigious theaters in Mannheim and Cologne, he was appointed general manager of the Thalia Theater in Hamburg, a position he held for fifteen years. Flimm’s productions at the Thalia included works by Chekov, Ibsen, Schnitzler and Shakespeare.

Flimm directed his first opera production, the Oper Frankfurt premiere of Lugi Nono’s Al gran sole carico d’amore, in 1978. Flimm’s subsequent opera stagings included Così Fan Tutte in Amsterdam (1990), which began his important artistic partnership with conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt; Wozzeck at La Scala (1997); Wagner’s Ring at Bayreuth (2000), conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli; Haydn’s L’Anima del Filosofo at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien (1995) and Covent Garden (2001); Otello (2001) and Sciarrino’s Macbeth (2014) at Berlin State Opera; the world premiere of Cerha’s Der Riese vom Steinfeld at Vienna State Opera (2002); La Clemenza di Tito at Vienna State Opera (2012); and Fidelio (2000) and Salome (2004) at the Metropolitan Opera. Flimm’s Met productions both featured memorable central performances by Karita Mattila. Both Fidelio and Salome were telecast as part of The Metropoitan Opera Presents series, and the Salome was featured in The Met: Live in HD in 2008.

Flimm succeeded Gerard Mortier as general manager of the Ruhr Triennale (2005–07) and was artistic director of the Salzburg Festival (2006–10), where he was seen as a force for modernization and change. In 2010, Flimm was appointed Intendant at Berlin State Opera, where he supervised the house’s lengthy restoration and its reopening in 2017.

Flimm’s boldly conceived, unconventional productions caused some critic to label him as a strict exponent of concept-driven Regietheater, but he was more than that.  In a 2017 interview with Luis Gazzola in Opera Lively, Flimm said “As a director I’m not a formalizer. I’ve done this job for forty or fifty years and I could never do that. I’m always looking for the human quality in music, and the behavior of the people—how they hate each other, and how they love each other and all this stuff. It’s not really a concept; that is my way to do theater or opera.”