Born in Saint-Etienne, Richard Brunel was admitted to the Saint-Etienne drama school (École Nationale du Centre dramatique de Saint-Étienne ; director of studies : Prosper Diss) where he worked with Pierre Debauche, Guy Rétoré, Stuart Seide, Philippe Adrien, Agathe Alexis, Jean-Christophe Barbaud, Pierre Barrat, Daniel Benoin, Michel Dezoteux, Mario Gonzalès, Patrick Guinand, Hervé Loichemol, Sophie Loucachevsky, Pierre Pradinas and others. While training to become an actor, he met Jean Dasté, the founding director of the Comédie de Saint-Etienne, a national centre for dramatic arts, known as a Centre Dramatique National (CDN). In the course of discussions on popular theatre, the role of audiences and decentralisation, the necessity to create a theatre company based in the same area, along with a collective, became clear. The Compagnie Anonyme was born. Its very first production was born in the Ricamarie, a town located in suburban Saint-Etienne, in collaboration with a secondary school where the young company offered artistic workshops.


Brunel’s fellow actors encouraged him to become the Compagnie Anonyme’s stage director. Laurent Darcueil, the director of the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Oullins, gave him the opportunity to present his first production in the Lyon urban district. The company, while still based in the Loire, was in residence at the Théâtre de la Renaissance (Oullins). The stage director’s projects tackled classic texts belonging to the French and European repertoires (Ramon del Valle-Inclán, Eugène Labiche, Mikhaïl Boulgakov, Bertolt Brecht, Witold Gombrowicz, Cyril Tourneur, Henrik Ibsen), contemporary works (Pauline Sales, Lioubomir Simovic, Peter Handke), novels adapted for the stage (Franz Kafka, Maupassant), letters (Sénèque, Anaïs Nin, Luis Buñuel), philosophical writings (Gilles Deleuze), poems (Maurice Maeterlinck, Jean Genet, Antonin Artaud), political texts (Antonio Gramsci) as well as scientific publications (Oliver Sacks).

In 2001, he staged Ödon Von Hörvath’s Don Juan at the Théâtre du Peuple in Bussang and, during this summer residence, the Ministry of Culture suggested he set up a CDN directorship project. Aware of the challenge that this represented, he elected to postpone the opportunity to refine his artistic skills and expand his experience as an associate artist. Alain Oliver, the director of the Saint-Denis theatre (known of as the TGP), invited him several times to present his work in this CDN. From 2003 onwards, audiences in and around Paris would enjoy his productions and the Compagnie Anonyme started touring around the country (in Colmar, Poitiers, Besançon, Nancy, Lyon, Marseille, Angers, Privas, Annecy, Chambéry, Caen…).


In 2003, Richard Brunel was admitted to the stage direction department of the Paris Conservatoire national supérieur d’art dramatique (the CNSAD, a higher education and professional acting school under the direction of the Ministry of Culture). He carried on training, doing several internships with Robert Wilson in the US, Alain Françon in Paris, Kristian Lupa in Kraków, Peter Stein in Lyon, Lukas Hemleb and Patrice Chéreau in Aix-en-Provence. This last internship involved shadowing the stage director for an opera production at the Festival International d’Art Lyrique. After this crucial experience, Brunel then went on to direct his first opera at the Opéra National de Lyon. Ever since, he has embarked on a journey which bridges the gap between theatre and music, constantly moving from one art form to the other.

From 2004 to 2007, he worked as an associate artist at the Théâtre de la Manufacture (the Nancy Lorraine CDN). This experience allowed him to fully grasp, from the inside, the artistic, human and economic stakes which directing a CDN entails.


In September 2009, Richard Brunel was appointed director of the Comédie de Valence. He took office in January 2010, eager to share his knowledge of the dramatic medium. With the creation of a artist collective made up of an equal number of men and women, he gave pride of place to artistic creation. This reflection and conception Collective was tasked with guaranteeing the aesthetic plurality of the artistic project and engaging in a dialogue with the audience. Richard Brunel called onto Christophe Floderer as associate director to assist him in setting up this project. During his three terms of office (from 2010 to 2019), Richard Brunel presented 17 productions, liberally sharing the means of production with the Collective. 87 productions reveal how active it was, supported by a growing national and international reputation as well as a sustainable system of production based on solidarity.

He started his first mandate with a staging of Koltès’s La Nuit juste avant les fôrets, (The Night Just Before the Forests) by Patrice Chéreau in Valence. Patrice Chéreau entrusted the Comédie with the production of this performance. In 2011, Richard Brunel opened a series on Justice/Injustice and created his first show in Valence: a play by Ferdinand Bruckner, Les Criminels (Criminals), performed by a cast of 15 actors. The production was acclaimed by the French Union of Critics (Syndicat de la critique) which awarded it the prestigious Georges-Lerminier Prize.


His top priorities included supporting artists from the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region like Eric Massé, Angélique Clairand, Caroline Guiela NGuyen, Joris Mathieu, Lise Maussion, Damien Mongin, Emilie Valantin, and offering local audiences the opportunity to discover artists who had never performed at the Comédie like Claude Régy, Ariane Mnouchkine, Roméo Castellucci, Nicolas Stemann, Pipo Delbono, Dada Masilo, Christoph Marthaler, Krystian Lupa, Angelica Lidell, Timofei Kouliabine and the Groupe Berlin. These artists were often acting for the first time in France or in the area. Richard Brunel was also committed to providing all the inhabitants of the CDN’s region with a public-service theatre. This quality programme, based on national and international productions, was closely intertwined with an initiative designed to improve the circulation of knowledge and artistic practises: travelling theatres, shared productions, Controversies (commissions aimed at younger audiences) and the creation of a festival called Ambivalence(s) which invites the members of the audience to simultaneously explore contemporary writing and the city.


With his collective, Richard Brunel created Le Silence du Walhalla at the TNP-Villeurbanne and a travelling staging of La Dispute by Marivaux with students from the ENSATT (the National School of Arts and Techniques). He directed Avant que j’oublie, a play by and with Vanessa Van Durme who was elected best actress by the Union of Critics. Then, in 2015, he worked with Norah Krief on Les Sonnets de Shakespeare and Sandrine Bonnaire on L’Odeur des planches by Samira Sedira. In Russia, in 2015-16, he created Roberto Zucco by Bernard-Marie Koltès for the repertoire of the Academic Drama Theatre Pushkin in Pskov before staging a different production of the same play with a cast of 13 actors in Valence, at the Saint-Denis TGP and around the country. In 2017, he teamed up with actress and director Emmanuelle Bercot to create Dîner en ville (by Christine Angot) which was performed at the Théâtre National de la Colline, amongst other places. Then, he met Julie Otsuka in New York City who gave him the adaptation and staging rights to The Buddha in the Attic, a novel which won many awards including the foreign Femina Prize. After its creation at the Ambivalences(s) Festival, the show was performed at the Cloître des Carmes during the 72nd edition of the Avignon Festival and was praised by critics.


He took his first steps in the world of the opera in Lyon with Der Jasager/Der Neinsager (Celui qui dit oui/Celui qui dit non / He said Yes/He said No) by Kurt Weill, directed by Jérémie Rhorer. In 2008, he was then invited by the Festival d’Art Lyrique in Aix-en-Provence to stage Haydn’s Infedelta delusa at the academy, and for its 64th edition he directed The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart. In 2009, he was also invited by the Opéra Comique to stage Albert Herring by Benjamin Britten, directed by Laurence Equibey, and again in 2012 with Re Orso, an original creation by Marco Stroppa and the Ensemble Intercontemporain headed by Susanna Malkki. In Lyon, he created The Penal Colony, adapted from Kafka, with Philip Glass, before turning to Der Kaiser von Atlantis by Viktor Ullmann at the Comédie de Valence and the Lyon opera house. He directed Béatrice et Bénédict, composed by Hector Berlioz and inspired by Shakespeare, before presenting a semi-staged version of Lakmé by Léo Delibes in Rouen and The Elixir of Love (Elisir d’amore) by Gaetano Donizetti, a production created at the Opéra de Lille which toured in five French opera houses. In 2015, he directed Dialogues des Carmélites by Francis Poulenc at the Stadttheater in Klagenfurt. Then, in 2016, Verdi’s Il trovatore at the Opéra de Lille, the Luxemburg Grand Théâtre and the Caen theatre. In 2017, he continued exploring Verdi’s repertoire with La traviata at the Stadttheater in Klagenfurt, then, in 2018, for the first time ever in France, he created Der Kreidekreis (The Chalk Circle) by Zemlinsky at the Opéra de Lyon.


In October 2019, Richard Brunel was nominated for the position of General and Artistic Director of the Opéra National de Lyon, and take up his position in September 2021 with a vision of continuing the adventure of one of Europe’s most inventive opera houses. He wants to open up opera to as many people as possible, share the great fictions of yesterday and the stories of today, and open up a new chapter: inventing new, daring and innovative forms and expressions, hybrid formats between theater, music and contemporary circus, and entrusting productions to talented conductors, directors, choreographers and composers, and inviting the younger generation. In the meantime, he is directing Rigoletto at the Opéra National de Lorraine (2021), which will be presented in 2022 at the Opéra de Rouen and in 2023 at the Opéra de Toulon.

As Director of the Opéra de Lyon, he directs Thierry Escaich and Atiq Rahimi’s creation Shirine (May 2022) and an adaptation of Mélisande after Maeterlinck and Debussy at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord with Judith Chemla in the title role and Florent Hubert as musical director (March 2023).

December 2022 featured the posthumous premiere of Philippe Boesmans’ On purge bébé! at La Monnaie, for which he wrote the libretto based on Feydeau’s play and directed the production. The show wins the Prix Claude-Rostand from the Syndicat professionnel de la Critique, awarded to the best lyrical creation co-produced in France’s regions and in Europe.

In autumn 23, he returns to the Théâtre National de l’Opéra Comique for the third time, directing Charles Lecoq’s La fille de madame Angot. In spring 2024, in Lyon, he continues his exploration of contemporary creation, directing Otages, by composer Sebastian Rivas, based on the novel by Nina Bouraoui, and staging for the first time a work by Leoš Janáček, L’Affaire Makropoulos. In coproduction with the Royal Swedish Opera, he will present Alban Berg’s Wozzeck with Stéphane Degout in the title role in Lyon and Peter Matei in Stockholm.