The last Lebrecht Interview of the summer features Patrice Chéreau whose bicentennial 1976 Ring in Bayreuth is arguably the most influental opera production of the past half-century and unquestionably the first to establish a contemporary aesthetic for Wagner.
There had been modern-ist stagings before Chéreau, mostly in a Marxist dialectic. What Chéreau achieved with Pierre Boulez was a reinterpretation of the saga in images and metaphors that were vivid and comprehensible to live audiences.
And not just live. The Boulez-Chéreau Ring was shown in many countries as television serial in ten instalments. It awoke a new generation to opera, set a different tone. How it came about and what went down in Bayreuth is discussed with naked candour in the interview. There were real, live Nazis all around, he relates.
Chéreau, one of the foremost French theatre directors, has a dozen films to his credit, including the masterpiece, La Reine Margot. Yet – and it’s a big yet – he has never been asked to work across the Channel, such is the insularity on British opera and theatre.
He will appear here for the first time next year at the Young Vic.
Hear all about it on the Lebrecht Interview, tonight at 9.15 on BBC Radio 3 – and streamed online for the rest of the week.
Picture shows: Patrice Chéreau with NL in Paris (c) Lebrecht Music & Arts