French film, opera and stage director Patrice Chéreau has died in Paris aged 68 after a long battle with lung cancer. Chéreau first made international cinema headlines in 1994 with the film Queen Margot starring Isabelle Adjani which won him the Jury Prize at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. Although he directed over 15 films, he was most at home in the theatre where he brought to the stage over 50 productions including Shakespeare’s Hamlet for which his won his first major French theatre award, the Molière in 1989. He would go on to win three more Molière throughout his career. Also an actor, he starred in Michael Mann’s Last of the Mohicans in 1992 and Michael Haneke’s Le temps du Loup in 2003.
Born 2 November 1944 in the village of Lezigné in western France, he grew up in Paris as the son of artists. At just 22-years-old, he became director of the Sartrouville theatre and in 1972 was named co-director of the Theatre National Populaire de Villeurbanne alongside Roger Planchon. At the request of conducter Pierre Boulez, he directed a controversial version of Wagners Ring cycle a Bayreuth in 1976. The production was hailed by some critics as changing the face of modern opera.
Chéreau’s other opera productions include both of Berg’s operas Wozzeck in Paris and Berlin, the three-act version of Lulu in Paris as well as Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Salzburg Festival and Così Fan Tutte at Aix-en-Provence and Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at La Scala. He began directing in Italy and Germany in the early 1970s, and he had a few opera productions under his belt, including a staging of Offenbach’s Contes d’Hoffmann at the Paris Opera by the time he undertook his Bayreuth Ring.
His film career kicked off in the 1970s and included such critical successes as Queen Margot, Those who love me can take the train (1998) and Intimacy (2001), which won the Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear award. Intimacy caused outrage in Britain because of its explicit sex scenes and was later labelled as the most sexually explicit British film to receive a censor’s certificate.
Chéreau’s last opera production was Elektra by Richard Strauss and he directed his last film in 2009 – Persecution with Romain Duris and Charlotte Gainsbourg.