Claude-Michel Schönberg, the French composer who first adapted the novel Les Misérables into a musical, has been announced as the next Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre at St Catherine’s College. He will succeed Simon Russell Beale in October 2016.
The position of Chair of Contemporary Theatre, which was founded through a grant from the Mackintosh Foundation at St Catz promotes both the study and the performance of contemporary theatre. Previous professors have included Patrick Stewart, Stephen Sondheim, Tim Rice and Phyllida Lloyd.
Schönberg announced, “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, Master of St Catherine’s College, commented, “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.”
Claude-Michel Schönberg began as a record producer, singer and songwriter and began musical theatre composition in 1973 with the French musical La Révolution Française. This began his long term collaboration with lyricist Alain Boublil.
In 1974 they began their musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, which would go on to become a global success, winning eight Tony awards including Best Musical. It was adapted to film in 2012 for which Claude-Michel received nominations for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards for “Suddenly”.
Schönberg has penned other successful musicals such as Miss Saigon (1989) and Marguerite (2008) and has received a Grammy for outstanding contribution to the creative community.
Izzy Rose, second year Music student at University College is delighted by the news, and told Cherwell, “I think it sounds like a fantastic appointment, it’s so important to have strong representation of contemporary arts within the academic structure of the Oxford collegiate system. It’s an extremely effective way of making new artistic ideas accessible to the broader student body even if it’s not part of their degrees.”
Issy Newell, Magdalen first year and producer of Magdalen’s garden play The Importance of Being Earnest had mixed feelings about the appointment. She told Cherwell, “As a fan of Claude-Michel’s work and musical theatre, his appointment is exciting news. It can’t be denied that he has reams of experience of the contemporary musical industry, and perhaps his appointment will result in a greater number of more adventurous modern musicals to be produced in Oxford.
“However, musical theatre plays a small part in the very large contemporary theatre industry, and I can’t help feeling that he won’t be able to contribute much to Oxford drama. The most exciting student drama is the wonderfully creative interpretations of both contemporary and old plays, but with musicals I feel that such artistic exploration isn’t as possible.”