France bows to stage director Patrice Chereau, dead at 68

Tue Oct 8, 2013 7:49pm EDT
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By Tom Heneghan

PARIS (Reuters) - The French theatre, opera and film director Patrice Chereau, who mounted one of the most famous productions of Richard Wagner's "Ring" cycle in Bayreuth in the 1970s, has died at the age of 68.

Chereau, who was preparing a production of Shakespeare's "As You Like It" when he succumbed to lung cancer, was a restless innovator who began directing at high school in Paris and never looked back.

His last work, a production of Richard Strauss's opera "Elektra" in Aix-en-Provence, France in July, won wild plaudits and critical acclaim for the way it brought out new depths in the tragic characters.

"One of the greatest French artists has just died," President Francois Hollande said of Chereau after his death was reported by newspaper Liberation. "France has lost an artist of universal proportions who made it proud around the world."

The Paris daily Le Monde said: "Few men and few artists have lived as intensely and left such a towering legacy. There were all the directors in one category, and then Patrice Chereau."

The son of struggling artists, Chereau began his career in the mid-1960s directing a Paris theatre with a strong left-wing political bent. In 1969, he went to work at Milan's Piccolo Teatro with the Italian director Giorgio Strehler.

By 1971, he was back in France, this time in Lyon, where his "violent, virulent and sumptuous theatre" presentations, as the Paris daily Liberation put it, built his reputation further.

Then in 1976, when the French conductor Pierre Boulez asked him to direct Wagner's "Ring" cycle of operas at the legendary festival in Bayreuth, Chereau made his unforgettable debut on the international opera scene.   Continued...

French director Patrice Chereau attends a photocall in Venice in this file September 5, 2005 photo. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico