— At the Festival

Published on February 21 2018

In patrons’ words #1 - The Eloise Susanna Gale Foundation

Ouverture de MP2018 - 14 février 2018 © Vincent Beaume
© Vincent Beaume

In the framework of the European project Orfeo & Majnun, the Festival d’Aix offers a series of interviews with individual patrons and companies who have chosen to support this festive and participative project. Meeting with Flavia Gale, co-founder of The Eloise Susanna Gale Foundation.


Founded by Flavia and Barden Gale in 2008, The Eloise Susanna Gale Foundation is dedicated to the memory of a young teacher who believed that education was the most important factor of equality in society. This American foundation supports projects in the field of education, literature and music. According to its founders, music and literature are intended to provide great individual emotions that, when they reach their height, can instill collective values such as friendship, solidarity and mutual understanding. In 2018, the foundation supports the French creation of the European project Orfeo & Majnun.

You have had the good fortune to travel the world and attend many cultural events and performances.  What do you think are the particular strengths and distinction of the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence?


The greatest asset of the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence is its ability to offer both top-quality music and world-class artists in a welcoming environment — on a human scale — in a very special corner of paradise called Provence.

What is your best memory from the Festival?

Elektra, Patrice Chéreau’s last production is by far my most compelling memory. Performed on a completely stripped-down set, we saw depicted with curdling accuracy the most monstrous – because the most intimate - of all human tragedies: the harrowing conflict between a mother and her daughter, which can only lead to death and/or madness. Two hours of relentless hatred with the character of Elektra sung – no channeled — by the stunning Evelyn Herlitzius, and with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting a score of staggering beauty and cruelty. Only possible when you can rehearse, rehearse and rehearse !

Why did you decide to support specifically Orfeo & Majnun this year?

First of all, I wanted to salute the outstanding work of Bernard Foccroulle over the years.  Also, in an attempt to counter the rise of polarization and nationalism, we wanted to support a project that would gather people from very different backgrounds to create and work on it together.


Orfeo & Majnun is a perfect example with three composers from different countries, artists and choristers from all over the world celebrating two myths which express in their own way the same human condition.

Your foundation, The Eloise Susanna Gale Foundation, will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2018. What were the most notable or memorable projects for you?

Three projects in particular: a surgical mission in Guatemala, the creation of a Chinese Studies center at Oxford University (it was high time!), the creation of the educational program entitled Les Petits Violons at the Paris Opera (daily classes of violin over a period of 3/4 years) with results well beyond what anyone might have hoped for.

How do you envision the development of your Foundation’s activities in the coming years?

Our children will take the lead – and it is vital that they choose what they wish to support. Zach, our son-in-law, is committed to the New York Tenement Museum (which documents the life of immigrants to NY and the US) and Camilla, our daughter, supports children's theatre and Brooklyn's parks and green spaces.

What is your message to individuals and corporations who hesitate to venture into sponsorship and philanthropy?

I can only speak for us. We believe that access to culture is a basic right, no different from access to education or access to health services. So we feel a certain duty.


But I should say that all these projects have enormously enriched our life. Charitable giving is deeply reciprocal.


This summer, take part in the Orfeo & Majnun urban walkabout on June 24th and discover the participative opera on July 8th. Two events free and open for everyone on the Cours Mirabeau.

Orfeo & Majnun receive the support of the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, Fondation Bettencourt Schueller, The Eloise Susanna Gale Foundation, Fonds Chœur à l’ouvrage and Fondation d'entreprise Total.

Follow the creative process of Orfeo & Majnun on its website !