© ANTOINE D'AGATA/MAGNUM PHOTOS
After his experiences within the amateur drama company of his high school in Paris, Patrice Chéreau decided to focus more specifically on stage direction and set design. In 1966, Patrice Chéreau was appointed director of the Sartrouville Theatre. There, on the eve of May 68’s turmoil, he displayed a strong political involvement. Even though in high esteem, the Sartrouville Theatre could not avoid bankruptcy in 1969. As a result, Patrice Chéreau joined the Piccolo Teatro in Milan, under the direction of Giorgio Strehler, who complemented his formation. Back in France in 1971, Patrice Chéreau was appointed director of the Théâtre National Populaire de Villeurbanne, a position held jointly with Roger Planchon and Robert Gilbert. Director of the theatre Les Amandiers in Nanterre from 1982 to 1990, Patrice Chéreau deepened his research in stage direction, combining the classical repertoire (Marivaux,…) with new dramas written by the avant-garde (Heiner Muller, Bernard-Marie Koltès,…).
With the production of Wagner’s Tetralogy for the Bayreuth Festival in 1976, Patrice Chéreau made a dramatic entrance into the operatic world. Patrice Chéreau’s production, setting the Ring’s plot in an industrial context, was epoch-making in its critic of the capitalistic system. Afterwards, Patrice Chéreau continuously came back to the opera with: Lulu by Berg (1979), Lucio Silla by Mozart (1984), Wozzeck by Berg (1992), Don Giovanni by Mozart (1992), Così fan tutte (2005), From the House of the Dead by Janáček (2007), Tristan und Isolde by Wagner (2007) and Elektra by Richard Strauss (2013).
Director of numerous films, Patrice Chéreau explored the inner psychology of his characters. Postmodern in spirit, his movies combined autobiographic elements, social critic and political engagement. Among the manifold prizes he obtained, let us just mention the César for Best Scenario for L’Homme blessé (1984), the César for Best Director for Ceux qui m’aiment prendront le train (1999), the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for La Reine Margot (1994), the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for Intimité (2001), the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival for Son frère (2003),…
Patrice Chéreau’s creative activity shows a strong political engagement, a social critic, and the denunciation of an alienating capitalism. But far from a rhetorical discourse, Patrice Chéreau’s aesthetics privileges visual means, the gestures and physical expressions of the actors. Phantasmagoria and mystery extend the physical stage, and the possible field of interpretation. Drawing his inspiration from Bertolt Brecht, Antonin Artaud, German Expressionism and Orson Wells, Patrice Chéreau produced an œuvre extremely personal, rich, engaged, varied and multidisciplinary, of which the influence can only be measured with the exceptional esteem Patrice Chéreau acquired in the international audience.