The Associated Press

HAMBURG (AP) -German stage director Peter Zadek, known for his provocative and unconventional renditions, died overnight in Hamburg after a serious illness, the theater where he was working said Thursday. He was 83.

"We mourn for a friend and one of the great directors of German theater," said Ulrich Waller, head of Hamburg's St. Pauli Theater.

Zadek was considered among the top German stage directors, and was especially known for his staging of plays by William Shakespeare and Anton Chekhov.

Austrian broadcaster ORF called him a "titan of German-language theater," while Austrian Culture Minister Claudia Schmied released a statement lauding Zadek as a "master of innovation."

Born May 19, 1926, in Berlin, Zadek emigrated with his parents to Britain in 1933.

He began his career as a film cutter and television director at the British Broadcasting Corporation before turning his attention to the theater.

In the late 1950s he returned to Germany and over the next decades earned a reputation for directing productions that were considered unorthodox and even experimental. He also put on several productions at Vienna's renowned Burgtheater.

In 2008, Zadek received Austria's prestigious Nestroy prize for his achievements.