Since the 3rd of February, reservations are open for the Lyric Festival of Aix-en-Provence. This gives us the opportunity to get back on the history of a major music event.
The Lyric Festival of Aix-en-Provence is a major event in the city, but not only. Some people compare it to the Cannes Festival for music. It started little by little in 1948 and it is now one of the major lyric festivals of Europe.
France needed to relish its reputation after the 2nd World War and the Vichy government. Creating cultural events was a good start: Festival de Cannes (movies) in 1946, Festival d’Avignon (theatre) in 1947, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence in 1948. For this last one, it started with a great man, art lover, Gabriel Dussurget, coming from Paris, who wanted to create a music festival in Provence. Regarding the place, his first choice was Marseille, then Aix-en-Provence after he fell in love with the courtyard of the Archbishop’s Palace. In July 1948, the first Lyric Festival of Provence started, with concerts and recitals in this very small place but also at the Saint Savior’s Cathedral and some other places in the city. Among them, was an Opera, “Cosi fan tutte” by Mozart, unusual and unknown at that time by the French public.
After the success of the first season, the Lyric Festival was renewed the following year, with the construction of a new theater and another opera of Mozart, Don Giovanni. Almost all of the Mozart’s operas were played during the first 20 years. Mozart is really the symbol of the Festival d’Aix, but other artists were honoured: Rossini, Monteverdi, Haydn, and local artists related to Aix-en-Provence such as Campra or Darius Milhaud. Then, with the arrival of a new director, the Festival became dedicated to the “Bel Canto” from 1974 to 1982, then the Baroque with Lully, Campra, Rameau, Purcell has been developped from 1982 to 1996. The Mozart’s operas are still the most famous part of the Festival, but the program varies also with a blend of theatre, dance and opera.
What to expect this year?
This year 2014, the 66th edition of the Festival will start the 2nd and will last until the 24th of July. A “prelude”, called “Festival d’Aix en Juin” (June’s Festival) was created last year and will be renewed this year, from the 5th to the 29th of June. During the Festival, you may assist to The Magic Flute by Mozart, the Winterreise by Schubert, Il turco in Italia by Rossini, Ariodante by Haendel and Bach’s cantatas. For more informations and reservations, just click on the official website page.
This year, the organizers want to change the image of the Festival and Opera in general: no, it is not only an elitist art for the wealthiest and elderly people, it is an art everyone can appreciate. To make it accessible, now and more often, performances like concerts or Operas are held directly in the streets, with for example what is called “big street event“, finishing the June’s prelude, with free concerts on the main avenue, Cours Mirabeau.
The city of Aix en Provence in June and July is a delight with this very particular atmosphere!