Remembering Patrice Chéreau

April 11, 2016 | By French Culture Arts

This month, the Metropolitan Opera premiere of Patrice Chéreau’s staging of Elektra is an opportunity to commemorate the unforgettable contribution of this great director to theatre, opera and film. Chéreau did not live to see his highly praised production, which first premiered at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in July 2013, come to New York, but this revival is a wonderful way to revisit and enrich his legacy. On this occasion, Esa-Pekka Salonen, who will lead the orchestra in this revival, and some leading figures of New York’s cultural scene express their admiration and reflect upon his enduring influence.


"Quite often, you meet people you have admired from afar, and they turn out to be not so nice. This happened to me many times in my youth. But Patrice was really remarkable as a human being. Very shy, very modest, very warm and thoughtful. I was always so impressed by the lack of fuss, the lack of grand gesturing, the lack of anything but focus and determination in his work. Whenever he suggested something, it was always with some overwhelmingly powerful argument behind it, and it was never about pecking order or power or any non artistic aspect—always about expression." – Esa-Pekka Salonen 


Peter Gelb, General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera, recalls Chéreau's preparations for the world premiere of his Elektra, "I saw him for the last time when I went to Aix. I wasn't there for the first performance. I went to the second performance. But unlike any other director, Chéreau was still there, fine-tuning. Most opera directors, when they open a show, they're on the first plane out the next morning. Chéreau stuck around, and, like the great theater director that he was, he was adjusting." 


“Patrice Chéreau’s passing was an enormous loss to the worlds of film, theater, and opera,” said Dennis Lim, Director of Programming at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. “What unites his films and aligns them with his great works in other mediums is his interest in the irrational side of human motivation and his fascination with the transforming effects of passion.”

“And one day, all of the sudden, I realized that Patrice Chéreau has been present for each of the essential steps of my professional life, from the Théâtre du Gymnase in Marseille to The Invisible Dog in Brooklyn, from the Odéon in Paris to the Festival of Aix-en-Provence. He was a powerful and protective influence.” – Lucien Zayan, Founder and Director of The Invisible Dog Art Center

“The work of groundbreaking theater director Patrice Chéreau was introduced to US audiences at BAM in 1996, with Bernard-Marie Koltès’ In the Loneliness of the Cottonfields—a fascinating exploration of human nature in which the director himself co-starred. The unique staging, requiring seating only on the opera house stage, created a sense of intimacy amid a darker, cavernous space.  Like all of Chéreau’s work, it was an unforgettable artistic experience.” – Joseph V. Melillo, BAM Executive Producer

See Patrice Chéreau's staging of Richard Strauss's Elektra at the Metropolitan Opera, from April 14th though May 7th. 

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