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Aix-en-Provence Festival 2024: “A blue white red edition”

It is one of the few major cultural events of the summer which should not be disturbed by the holding of the Paris Olympics.

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Aix-en-Provence Festival 2024: “A blue white red edition”

It is one of the few major cultural events of the summer which should not be disturbed by the holding of the Paris Olympics. The Aix-en-Provence International Lyric Art Festival announced this morning the program for its 76th edition, which will take place from July 3 to 23. An edition which, by the own admission of its director Pierre Audi, will be “blue white red. I have always loved French music. It’s even one of the reasons why I accepted this festival, confides the Franco-Lebanese director and theater man, and former close friend of the composer Pierre Boulez. And to be honest, I have never really understood this disenchantment of the French with their composers!” With no less than four titles (out of the six operas staged this year) from our national repertoire, this edition will endeavor to right this injustice. “It’s not about doing just that every year,” warns the artistic director, whose 76th edition will mark his second term at the head of the institution. The Aix festival is a world-class festival, welcoming the greatest orchestras in Europe, and which aims to remain so. But I thought it was good to have this alternation of editions with sometimes very French, sometimes very international colors. »

Also read: Pierre Audi: “At the Aix Festival, creation will be at the heart of my mandate”

Of which act. It is with the two Iphigénie by Gluck, Iphigénie en Aulide and Iphigénie en Tauride, coupled in one and the same show, that the festival will open at the Grand Théâtre de Provence. “An intuition from the director Dmitri Tcherniakov, to whom this new production is entrusted. He has already directed both works. But this time, it will be totally different since it will have the same Iphigenia, played by the American soprano Corinne Winters, who for her debut at the festival will perform a real tour de force by playing the heroine in the two operas. She will be accompanied on stage by a hell of a bunch of French voices: Véronique Gens, Florian Sempey, Stanislas de Barbeyrac, Alexandre Duhamel... And to lead all these beautiful people towards the abyss, Emmanuelle Haïm at the helm of her Concert d' Astraea.

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Because who says “blue white red edition”, also says celebration of specialized or independent ensembles. “One of the greatest French heritages, which urgently needs to be preserved. I am very happy that the festival can lend its voice to the essentiality of their survival,” says Audi. It is precisely one of these independent ensembles specializing in baroque, which has become essential on the French scene, which will follow in the footsteps of the Concert d'Astrée, for the second new production of this edition: the Pygmalion ensemble by Raphaël Pichon. It is on the latter's initiative that Rameau's Samson will be recreated, with the collaboration of director Claus Guth who, so to speak, recomposed the libretto. More than a forgotten or lost opera, a “disseminated opera”, to use the expression of the two artists. Planned to be created in the 1730s on a libretto by Voltaire which never passed censorship, the project was abandoned... And the music projected by Rameau reused in several subsequent works. Raphaël Pichon therefore hunted down the relics at Castor and Pollux, the Indes Galantes or the Fêtes d'Hébé, to reconstruct, on a scenario by Claus Guth faithful to the Voltairian spirit, "this fascinating story of the life of Samson, of his birth until his death, and whose philosophical significance goes beyond the simple biblical episode of Samson and Delilah, which everyone knows,” rejoices Pierre Audi.

Also read: Artistic music: independent ensembles, first victims of artistic cuts

After this "world creation", return to a more familiar work with, to commemorate the hundred years of Puccini's death, a new production of Madama Butterfly entrusted to one of the greatest Butterflies of the moment - Ermonela Jaho, who will do her also his debut on the stage of the Archbishopric. But also in the distanced view of the director Andrea Breth, who returns to Aix two years after her work in loco on Salomé. A “distance” perfectly assumed by Pierre Audi: “Andrea Breth is one of the directors with whom I have established a strong relationship for several years, and Madama Butterfly is a delicate opera to stage today without sinking. in the cliché or claim. So I am very happy to have this distance.”

Only two years separate the creation of Butterfly in Milan from that of Debussy's Pelleas et Mélisande, at the beginning of the last century. Two years but an aesthetic world. It will therefore be fascinating to hear their confrontation one day apart, thanks to the revival of Katie Mitchell's captivating production, seen seven years ago, "but which had never before been revived in Europe,” specifies Audi. Especially since the two works will be carried by the same forces (the choir and orchestra of the Lyon Opera). At the baton for the first, the musical director of the orchestra, Daniele Rustioni. And at the desk for the second, the one that some already consider to be one of the serious candidates for the position of musical director of the Paris Opera: Susanna Mälkki.

As for the sixth and final opera staged, it will take us back to baroque lands with Monteverdi and his Return of Ulysses to the Fatherland. A work with which Pierre Audi himself achieved, in the 1990s, one of his most fervent successes as a director, and which he therefore agreed to bring back to the profession at the request of Leonardo Garcia Alarcon. -himself and his ensemble from the Cappella Mediterranea.

Lots of baroque, then. “I make it a point of honor that no edition is like the other,” smiles Audi. Last year, it was pointed out to me that there was no baroque title. This year, Baroque will be widely represented!” But also the continuation of the furrows dug by the festival last year. Musical theater, which continues to gain momentum with the diptych Songs and Fragments, which will combine Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies and Kafka-Fragmente by Kurtag, in a production by Barrie Kosky and under the baton of the new conductor of the Ensemble Intercontemporain Pierre Bleuse. But also the crazy philosophical-theatrical adventure, at the LUMA in Arles, of William Kentridge and the South African choir director and dancer Nhlanhla Mahlangu, who in The Great Yes, the great no, will embark on the same boat Aimé Césaire, the sisters Nardal, Franz Fanon, Joséphine Bonaparte, Joséphine Baker, Trotsky and Stalin!

No show or concert, finally, taking over the Vitrolles Stadium this year. But an ever-increasing presence of concerts, with among others two new operas in concert version staged: La Clémence de Titus directed by Pichon, with Pene Pati in the title role and Karine Deshayes as Vittelia. Then Les Vêpres siciliennes by Daniele Rustioni and the Lyon Opera orchestra. “The success of Le Prophète by Meyerbeer last year reassured us in the idea that there was a real demand from the public for these operas in concert,” concludes Pierre Audi... Who is already dreaming of putting on , for the following summer, morning concerts, at 11 a.m., to build loyalty among the Aix public around these musical events throughout the day.

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