France Mourns Death of Stage, Film Director Chereau

Patrice Chereau and Pierre Boulez
Director Patrice Chereau and conductor Pierre Boulez in a photograph taken during the rehearsals for their legendary 1976 staging of Wagner's "Ring" cycle. Photographer: Manuel Litran/Paris Match via Getty Images

Oct. 8 (Bloomberg) -- France and the cultural world paid tributes to Patrice Chereau, a film, theater and opera director who died at age 68 and was, according to President Francois Hollande, “one of France’s greatest artists.”

Chereau died on Oct. 7 after a long battle with cancer. He will be remembered for his staging of Richard Wagner’s “Ring” cycle at the 1976 Bayreuth Festival with Pierre Boulez conducting. Considered one of the most important opera productions ever, it moved the action to the 19th century and added a hydroelectric dam, class struggle and hookerish Rhine maidens.

His movies include the historical drama “La Reine Margot” (1994) and “Intimacy” (2001), a winner of the main prize at the Berlin Film Festival.

“We grieve the passing of an outstanding artist whose overwhelming body of work is characterized by sensitivity and versatility,” Dieter Kosslick, the director of the Berlin Film Festival, said in a statement on the festival website.

In 2007, Chereau again collaborated with Boulez to stage the Leos Janacek opera “From the House of the Dead” in Vienna, a production that later moved to the Metropolitan Opera and marked the first time he worked in the U.S.

His last production was Richard Strauss’s “Elektra” at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, which “he experienced as a gift, he was so happy, despite his illness,” said Bernard Foccroulle, the festival director. The premiere audience gave it a standing ovation.

Boulez said Chereau was “the only stage director I really wanted to work with” and recalled in the newspaper Le Monde “the extreme precision with which he characterized the most minor figure.”

Isabelle Huppert, who starred in his film “Gabrielle,” was quoted in Le Figaro saying she owed him her “first big emotions as a spectator” and praised his intelligence, conviction and enthusiasm.

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