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IX. The opera factory

IX. The opera factory

Patrice Chéreau always had a conflictual connection to opera. On many occasions he declared it was time for a complete breakup with the genre, deploring a lack of time to lead his rehearsals and a far too rigid canvas for his revivals. He regarded opera as a “too heavy machine” and its audience as too conservative. And yet, confronting his art to music remained to him the opportunity to achieve an “extraordinary work”, a source of many great joys as he himself acknowledged. In 2013 the director had planned to stage Moses and Aaron by Arnold Schonberg at the Paris Opera for the opening of 2015 Season, and he had also set eyes on Boris Godunov by Modest Mussorgsky.

Directing the singers

Patrice Chéreau initiated a great revolution in opera, bringing the art of theatre by directing the singers as if they were true comedians, something which was usually not the case in opera houses. Even before the stage rehearsals, he organized a “seated session”, without music, to analyze the libretto – a process which could be rather unsettling for many singers. The notes he took on the spot, during rehearsals are today a precious legacy on the outstanding work he accomplished to obtain characters played with the deepest sincerity. The indications he gave them, focused on their bodies, where always given in a close physical proximity with the singers. 

Diriger les chanteurs
Diriger les chanteurs 3 images

Music and staging

During his work at the Opera, Patrice Chéreau developed a deep reflection on the possible links to establish between the musical line indicated on a score and the action on stage. He refused to automatically “follow the music”, sometimes even proposing to contradict it, showing on stage an aspect of the drama detached from the sound narrative. To him, action on stage should also spark music: what was played by the artists should “urge” the passage from the speech to the song.

Pierre Boulez, Daniel Barenboim and Esa-Pekka Salonen remain, among all the conductors he worked with, special and exceptional partners. Their intellectual connection has deeply marked the main steps of Chéreau’s in the lyrical world. Though they have underlined the obvious musical talent of the director, they all shared his conviction that the core nature of opera was a dramatic one. 

Musique et mise en scène
Musique et mise en scène 2 images
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