Chéreau’s storytelling ability was evident from an early age when he became known as an actor, director and stage manager of his school plays. The son of two painters, who developed his artistic sensibility, he was hailed as a theatre prodigy by age 15, and, seven years later, he began directing professionally, creating a public theatre in a Paris suburb. By the time he was 30, he had staged his first opera.
In the mid-1970s, Chéreau added film to his repertoire with the thriller La chair de l’orchidée and directed one of his most celebrated productions, Wagner’s mythological Ring Cycle for the centenary of the Bayreuth Festival. This milestone adaptation, which he controversially set during the 19th-century Industrial Revolution, has since influenced the staging of operas worldwide.
Primarily known in France as a theatrical powerhouse and actor, over the past three decades, Chéreau has also demonstrated his artistry through his award-winning, often highly personal films. These include L’Homme blessé (The Wounded Man, 1983), the hit epic La Reine Margot (Queen Margot, 1994), Ceux qui m’aiment prendront le train (Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train, 1998), the notoriously erotic Intimacy (2001), Son frère (His Brother, 2003), Gabrielle (2005) and Persécution (2009).
A master teacher at film schools in New York and Paris, Chéreau also took on the role as a guest curator at the Louvre where he incorporated dance, opera, theatre, film and painting in the 2010 show Les Visages et les corps (Faces and Bodies). His first-ever English stage production took place in 2011 at London’s Young Vic. Most recently, Chéreau directed Strauss’ s opera Elektra to great acclaim at the 2013 Aix-en-Provence festival.
Patrice Chéreau died on 7 October 2013.