We’re much distressed tonight by news of the death of Patrice Chéreau, director of the centennial 1976 Ring at Bayreuth, of several outstanding films and of a niche French theatre.
He was 68; the cause was lung cancer.
When we met three years ago for a BBC Lebrecht Interview, Patrice could not have been more helpful or forthcoming. His apartment in the Marais district of Paris was spartan in decor and Patrice gave the impression of a man who liked to live without extravagance. His loyalties were to Paris, to French theatre and to old friends.
His Wagner venture, instigated by Pierre Boulez, had been an aberration in a career in spoken theatre. He had enjoyed the operas but saw no reason ever to direct anything else at Bayreuth. He talked to me of his astonishment at the old Nazis he met, one of them in his cast.
He was gay and out all his adult life, though never extrovertly . His charm was discreet and memorable. We met him again the following year when he came to direct a morose Norwegian play at the Young Vic, belatedly his British debut. Much of the play was set in a puddle on a concrete floor. Patrice looked glum. Later, we heard he was ill.
Tonight we shall watch La Reine Margot, his greatest film.
You can listen to the Lebrecht Interview with Patrice here.