Circus visionary behind iconic Las Vegas Mystery shows, ‘O’ dies at 69

LAS VEGAS — Entertainment visionary Franco Dragone, creator of Cirque du Soleil’s iconic Mystère and “O” shows on the Las Vegas Strip, has died. He was 69 years old.

In a statement on Friday, Cirque described Dragone as an “industry icon” who “has contributed invaluably to the success of Cirque du Soleil.”

“His passing is a loss not only to his family, but to the entire industry,” the statement read.

More details about his death were not immediately available.

Friday night performances of Mystère and “O” in Las Vegas will be dedicated to Dragone and his life’s work.

He brought Mystery to the Treasure Island hotel-casino in 1993 and “O” to the Bellagio in 1998.

In addition to these shows, he was responsible for many of Cirque’s most successful productions in Las Vegas and around the world, including New Experience (1990-1993), La Nouba (1998-2017) and the favorite of the fans Alegría, established in 1994 and is still touring today after more than 5,000 shows in over 250 cities.

The art director was born in 1952 in the small southern Italian village of Cairano, according to Dragone’s website, but grew up in Belgium, where his family settled in the mining town of La Louvière.

Cirque du Soleil acrobats perform in Mystère at the Treasure Island hotel-casino in Las Vegas.

While studying drama at the Mons Conservatory in Belgium, he fell in love with political theater and commedia dell’arte, an early form of theater involving improvised dialogue originating in Italy.

In the 1980s he “followed his passions across the Atlantic” to join the fledgling Cirque du Soleil, and as creative director he was behind 10 shows in the 1990s.

He then founded his own eponymous entertainment company, Dragone Creations, which he launched in his hometown of La Louvière.

Rio Lacanlale is the Las Vegas correspondent for the Reno Gazette Journal and the USA Today Network. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @riolacanlale. Support local journalism by subscribing to RGJ today.

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