Iconic director of Wagner’s centenary Ringcyle at Bayreuth passes at 68.

Opera, stage and film director Patrice Chéreau has died at the age of 68 after a long battle with lung cancer.

Born in 1944 in Lézigné in western France, Chéreau’s parents were both painters. While studying theatre at the Sorbonne in Paris, he directed a production of Interventionby Victor Hugo that proved so successful he dropped out of university to launch his own theatre company.

Directing a myriad of plays over the next 20 years, Chéreau began branching into opera direction in the 1970s, including a staging of Offenbach’s Contes d’Hoffmanat the Paris Opera in 1973.

Chéreau came to international prominence in 1976 when he directed Wagner’s RingCycle at Bayreuth for the festival’s centenary. In his production, Chéreau updated the ancient story of Norse gods and fantastical creatures to reflect Wagner’s 18th-century context, replacing a mythological setting with industrial age machinery.

Conducted by Pierre Boulez, the production was intended by Chéreau as a Marxist allegory of capitalism and the exploitation of the working class, and was unlike anything Wagner fans had seen before. Despite polarizing critics, the production helped open the floodgates for the directorial reinterpretation of...