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Acclaimed French opera director Patrice Chéreau dies

The man who brought Valhalla to the masses and Intimacy to the big screen succumbs to cancer at 68

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Patrice Chéreau
© PhotoPQR/La Provence

If he'd never done anything else with his life, Patrice Chéreau's name would be carved in arts lore thanks to his 1976 Bayreuth staging of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. Unusually for this epic cycle, his achievement inspired admiration and approval from all sides and, thanks to its preservation on DVD, it does so to this day.

Surprisingly, in view of such an indelible monument, the French director – who has died of lung cancer at the age of 68 – directed only ten other opera productions in his entire career. Three years after his Bayreuth triumph, Chéreau collaborated again with the conductor of that Ring, Pierre Boulez, on the first-ever staging of Alban Berg's Lulu in the three-act completion by Friedrich Cerha. His final contribution to the lyric stage was Strauss's Elektra, critically lauded and rapturously received at the 2013 Aix Festival.

Chéreau worked extensively in theatre, mainly in his native France (although his English-language production of Jon Fosse's I Am the Wind played at the Young Vic two years ago), while his films include the historic melodrama La Reine Margot with Isabelle Adjani and Daniel Auteuil and the sexually explicit Intimacy with Mark Rylance and Kerry Fox.

As an actor, Chéreau appeared in films by directors as diverse as Andrzej Wajda (Danton), Michael Mann (The Last of the Mohicans) and Michael Haneke (Le Temps du loup).


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