Claude-Michel Schönberg has been named as the next Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre, based at St Catherine’s College at the University of Oxford. He will succeed Simon Russell Beale in October 2016.
Mr Schönberg, who adapted the novel Les Misérables into a hit musical, said: 'After a certain age you want to share what you have learnt about your work and pass it to the next generation. Everybody has to go through their own experience, there is no shortcut but I can help to bring to the surface what creators have deep inside so they can understand better the process of their alchemy: channelling the stream of your passion and being patient enough to be at work when the inspiration occurs.'
Professor Roger Ainsworth, the Master of St Catherine's College, said: 'I am thrilled that Claude-Michel will be this year’s Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre. Claude-Michel’s eminent position and long-standing experience in contemporary musical theatre makes him an apt holder of this title, and it is wonderful that our students will have the opportunity to learn about this first-hand. It is an honour for St Catherine's to be welcoming him and I look forward to his inaugural lecture later this year with great anticipation.'
Musical theatre composer, songwriter, record producer, actor and singer, Claude-Michel Schönberg has been a pioneering figure in contemporary musical theatre culture for over thirty years. He began his career as a record producer, singer and composer of pop songs. His debut in musical theatre composition was in 1973 with the French musical La Révolution Française, in which he also played the role of King Louis XVI.
This show marked the beginning of the longstanding and highly successful collaboration between Claude-Michel and musical theatre lyricist Alain Boublil. In 1974 Claude-Michel and Alain began work on their musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables.
The musical was premiered in 1980 in the Palais de Sports, in London in 1985 and on Broadway in 1987 to great critical claim each time. In 1987 it was nominated for twelve Tony Awards, winning eight including Best Musical and Best Original Score. Now globally recognised as one of the most successful musicals of all time, Les Misérables celebrated its 30th anniversary on 8 October 2015. It was also adapted to film in 2012 for which Claude-Michel received nominations for Best Original Song at both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards for the film-exclusive song “Suddenly”.
Claude-Michel was to see continued success with subsequent musicals including Miss Saigon (1989), Martin Guerre (1997), The Pirate Queen (2007) and Marguerite (2008). He has also written the music for the ballet adaptation of Wuthering Heights which was performed by the Northern Ballet Theatre Company in 2002 and Cleopatra, which was performed by the same company in 2011.
He has received a Grammy award for outstanding contribution to the creative community and was this year a recipient of the Order of Arts and Letters (France).
The Chair of Contemporary Theatre, founded through a grant from the Mackintosh Foundation at St Catherine's College, aims to promote interest in, and the study and practice of, contemporary theatre. The Visiting Professorship has previously been held by actors, writers, directors, and producers including Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Miller, Alan Ayckbourn, Richard Eyre, Phyllida Lloyd, Tim Rice and Patrick Stewart.
The inaugural lecture will be in autumn 2016.