a flourishing talent
Despite the harsh realities of growing up in post-World War II Austria, Mariella Koller enrolled her six-year-old daughter in ballet classes under the advice of a local doctor to help Dagmar overcome a slight birth defect in her legs. . When not in ballet classes or school, Dagmar would escape to the movies of 1950s Hollywood musicals, quickly becoming enthralled by the dancing talents of MGM star Cyd Charisse. Moving to Vienna to follow her own dreams of being a dancer, Dagmar enrolled at the Academy of Performing Arts, where she eventually won the Austrian state prize in dance. Dagmar's first paid performance as a dancer was in the Vienna Volksoper choir. Continuing to study with some of the world's greatest dance instructors, Dagmar traveled from Vienna to Paris, where she befriended and studied movement with the legendary Marcel Marceau. She later moved to London, where she enrolled at the Sadler Wells Ballet Theatre.
Feeling that she didn't have the right physicality to become a ballerina, Dagmar enrolled in singing lessons with some of the best teachers in Vienna. After exploring her wonderful soprano voice, Dagmar began training in the world of operetta. Her years of hard work soon paid off with her role as Princess Mi in Franz Lehar's The Land of Smiles. Together with the famous Italian tenor Giuseppe di Stefano, they embarked on a concert tour of Europe and North America. Later, in New York, Dagmar made her Broadway debut in the Lunt-Fontanne Theater revival of Wiener Blut. During the 1966 Diamond Jubilee celebrations, Dagmar achieved a personal best by performing as a female soloist with the Johann Strauss Orchestra at the famous Carnegie Hall.
At this time in New York, Broadway experienced a renaissance with hit shows likeHi Dolly!, Funny Girl, Sweet Charity and Man of La Mancha. Dagmar soon returned to Europe armed with a wealth of experience and knowledge in the art of musical theatre.
Musical Star #1
After returning to Vienna, Dagmar made a triumphant appearance during the premiere of the German-language production of Man of La Mancha with Josef Meinrad. She then headed up production in Hamburg and recorded the music album for the show while in Germany. In Wiesbaden, she quickly danced and sang to win the hearts of the press and public alike, receiving top billing in Sweet Charity. Dagmar then recorded the concert album, which allowed him to showcase his unmistakable style on the international hit “Big Spender”. After its success in Wiesbaden, the production moved to Berlin and performed at the renowned Theater des Westens. At that time, Bunte magazine put Dagmar on its cover, declaring it its #1 Music Star.
Over the next 20 years, Dagmar starred in German language productions of Carousel, Irma LaDouce, Annie Get Your Gun, Kiss Me, Kate and Hello, Dolly! For My Fair Lady, she starred as Eliza Doolittle in thousands of performances in Austria, Germany and Switzerland - learning different dialects for each production. No wonder Marcel Prawy, the esteemed Viennese playwright and opera critic, called Dagmar “the only Austrian musical star”.
First Lady of Vienna
Dagmar Koller married the beloved Austrian educator and journalist, Dr. Helmut Zilk, July 21, 1978. Dr. Zilk served his country as Minister of Culture and Education and, to his delight, became arguably the city of Vienna's most celebrated mayor and governor from 1984-1994. During those years, as First Lady of Vienna, Dagmar served her city with pride while hosting some of the world's greatest personalities: the Prince and Princess of Wales; Czech playwright, dissident, and president Vaclav Havel; US Secretary of State George Schultz; Teddy Kollek, Mayor of Jerusalem; Queen Noor of Jordan; first lady of the United States, Nancy Reagan; Frank Sinatra; Liza Minnelli; and Plácido Domingo, to name just a few.
The darkest days of their public lives came in December 1993, when an assassin sent a letter bomb to their private residence in Vienna. The ensuing explosion almost cost Dr. Zilk. His wife's quick action saved him and kept the physical damage isolated to his left hand. After several emergency operations and months of rehabilitation, Dr. Zilk ended his final term in 1994. He continued to serve his country and his beloved Vienna until his death in 2008, receiving a televised state funeral usually reserved for Austrian presidents.
in front of the camera
In 1968, Dagmar filmed the first of several operetta films for television. In Königin einer Nacht she starred alongside Peter Minich and Peter Weck. At Csardasfürstin, she joined legendary opera stars Anna Moffo and Rene Kollo. Throughout the 1970s, she starred in a number of highly successful productions filmed for television. In 1977, Dagmar shared the screen with Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor in Hal Prince's film about Stephen Sondheim's Broadway triumph, A Little Night Music.
In the Austrian version of the 2004 film Shrek 2, Dagmar voiced the Fairy Godmother. Dagmar has been a fixture on television with her own show, “Hallo, Wie Geht's?”, which aired from 1989 to 2014. During the show's 25 years, she has talked, visited and sung with international stars such as Jack Lemmon, Nina Hagen, Larry Hagman, Paul Anka, Charles Aznavour and Hildegard Knef. To this day, Dagmar is a frequent and sought-after guest on television shows across the European continent.
From stage to page
In recent years, Dagmar has lent her name and talent to write four books.anecdotes by notes(Melodic Anecdotes) puts his personal touch on a tour of the world of operetta and musicals. His first biography,Now it really starts(Now Life Really Begins!) is a celebration of their struggles and joys, from the Carinthian girl in a torn leotard to the Grand Dame of Vienna. After her successful stint on the hit television show, "Dancing Stars", and in honor of her first artistic love, Dagmar wroteDance with me(Dance with me). More recently, she co-authoredThe art of being a woman(The Art of Being a Woman).The art of being a womanis a book of advice on how to live well - and the art form that Dagmar has certainly perfected!
Your Solo Retrospective
In 2012, Dagmar debuted her one-woman intimate showlife for the stage(Live for the Stage). Her one-woman retrospective of her life in the spotlight was filled with her favorite songs, includingMy way,Do not cry for me, Argentina,how we wereand many more. She also shared stories about her life—on and off stage—giving her fans a rare glimpse behind the curtain. Filled with laughter and tears, and backed by a four-piece band, the show was created specifically for smaller venues, ensuring the audience enjoyed an up close and personal encounter with Dagmar. Featuring footage from every stage of her life, the triumphant concerts gave fans an inside look at the joys and struggles of a life in the spotlight.
A Celebrated Woman
Whether on or off stage, Dagmar is constantly in demand; from high society events like the Opera Ball to charity events like the Life Ball, her presence ensures everyone in attendance is entertained. As Dagmar continues her life in the spotlight, she dedicates as much time as she can to helping those less fortunate, often taking action to help charitable causes that are important to her and her many wonderful and loyal fans around the world. She lends her name to worthy causes like Lichts in Dunkel (A Light in the Dark) and Power4Me, the child support organization she sponsors. Although she has no children, she is the living version of “Aunt Mame” to Michelle, Steven, Jeanne, James, Katarina, Alexander, Oliver, Isabelle, Dylan and Jackson.
In the spotlight
Dagmar shines during stage-to-screen performances.
Dagmar has befriended many international luminaries.
Policy and Events
Dagmar brings dignity and a spirit of fun to gatherings of all kinds.
Personal photos of Dagmar's life off stage.