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French film, theatre and opera worlds mourn Patrice Chéreau

Patrice Chéreau
Patrice Chéreau Nicolas Guérin

Leading figures in the arts world are lining up to pay tribute to one of France’s most admired theatre, opera and film directors, Patrice Chéreau, who died on Monday at the age of 68.

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Chéreau had been suffering from lung cancer.

In a statement, French president François Hollande said the cultural world was “in mourning” and spoke of “one of France’s greatest artists” who all over the world “made France proud”.

“With the death of Patrice Chéreau we lose one of our greatest artists but also a part of ourselves. We have become who we are, as we have watched his films, his theatre productions, his operas”, said France’s Culture Minister, Aurélie Filipetti.

“He was a magnificent man, generous, who expected the best of himself with the values he embodied,” she added.

The president of the Cannes Film Festival, Gilles Jacob, tweeted “a master is silent.”

The director of the Paris Opera, Nicolas Joel, who was Chéreau’s assistant on his landmark Ring Cycle production, said he was “overcome”.

Chéreau was hugely prolific making films, plays, operas and occasionally acting.

His 10 films include the Oscar-nominated and Cannes Jury prize winner La Reine Margot, and Intimacy, in English, which won the Berlin Golden Bear award for Best Film in 2001.

His 1976 staging of Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” at the Bayreuth Opera Festival, set in the Industrial Age was highly controversial but is now considered a masterpiece.

The production ran until 1980 and after the last performance, he was applauded for 95 minutes.

During his career Chereau won four Molières, the most prestigious prize in French theatre, and two Césars, the French equivalent of Oscars.

He was politically engaged, demonstrating against France’s war in Algeria and boycotting the Salzburg festival when the far-right became part of Austria’s coalition government.

Chéreau himself once said that he was a solitary man, though he added: “I think I am, happily, the sum of all the people I have met”.

A life in dates:

1944: Born in Lezigne, to artist parents, childhood in Paris.

1966: Becomes director of first theatre, on outskirts of Paris.

1976 – 80: Opera: The Ring Cycle,

1984: César, Best Original Screenplay, for l’Homme blessé

1994: Film : La Reine Margot (co-wrote and directed).

1994: Prix du Jury, La Reine Margot.

1998: Film : Ceux qui m’aiment prendront le train (co-wrote and directed)

1999: César, Best Director, Ceux qui m’aiment..

2000: Film : Intimacy (co-wrote and directed).
 

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