Gender equality, included in the Festival’s statutes through its commitment towards nonprofit social responsibility, is now a part of its core mission. The Festival thus aims at promoting creative women who are shaping the opera of today and tomorrow. The 2021 programme reflects this, with the inclusion of many women who are redefining opera through their talent: librettists, composers, conductors, stage directors, costume designers, and many more. They are inspirations to others thanks to their unique creativity, and are remodelling the contours of opera.
Lotte de Beer will be opening the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence on the legendary stage of the Théâtre de l’Archevêché, with her Mozart production for the summer of 2021, Le nozze di Figaro. She will be giving this opera buffa a resolutely modern tone, by exploring the themes of power and sex through the lens of each character. She will thus be presenting very different perspectives, all of which are marked by a specific theatrical language. Her staging is accompanied by the sets of multiple-award-winning Rae Smith and the costumes of Jorine van Beek.
Innocence, the new opera by Kaija Saariaho—commissioned and coproduced by the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence—arose from a meeting between the composer and the Finnish novelist Sofi Oksanen. This contemporary tragedy will be conducted by Susanna Mälkki, in a production that features the work of the British stage designer Chloe Lamford, and the costumes of Mel Page, whose talents will also be on display in the production of Tristan und Isolde.
The collection Arab Apocalypse, by the author Etel Adnan, has been adapted into musical form by librettist Claudia Pérez Iñesta. The Golden Cockerel manifests its air of absurd, fantastical parade thanks to the costumes of Victoria Behr; Katrin Lea Tag drapes the eponymous character of Falstaff in frivolity and outrageousness with her costumes and sets. And finally, the catharsis of the Italian baroque music of Combattimento is revealed by the staging of Silvia Costa and the costumes of Laura Dondoli.
We should also mention the Académie du Festival’s programme of residencies for young artists, which also respond to contemporary issues of equality and diversity. With the support of the Music Moves Europe programme of the European Union, the Académie is launching a pilot programme that furthers its commitment to the fight against gender inequality in opera. With the Young Women Opera Makers residency, twelve young authors, composers, librettists, conductors, and stage directors will benefit from the coaching of stage director Katie Mitchel and of many other figures, thanks to immersive internships and personalized invitations. Three young women conductors will benefit this summer from the experience and artistic, technical and professional advice of some of the great artists invited to the Festival d’Aix, including conductors Thomas Hengelbrock and Duncan Ward, soprano and vocal professor Edith Wiens, and Christiane Louis, instructor in artistic entrepreneurship at the Philharmonie de Paris.
In both musical creation and leadership, women will be taking centre stage at the Festival and defend their visionary approaches, through the operas and concerts of the Festival and the initiatives of the Académie.