The true reason behind the significance and success of Aix was the fusion of opera and painting.
Gabriel Dussurget, First General Director of the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence
— In 1951, André Derain designed the costumes and sets for Jean Le Poulain’s production of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio. This prominent figure of Fauvism succeeded Georges Wakhévitch, Cassandre, and Balthus, who were responsible for the sets and costumes of, respectively: the first Così fan tutte in 1948, Don Giovanni in 1949 and Così fan tutte in 1950. Derain, who was influenced by the revolutionary aesthetics proposed by the Ballets russes, for which he created his first sets, remained dedicated to set design throughout his career, as demonstrated by this photograph taken during the revival of the production in 1967.
— Between 1960 and 1963, Suzanne Lalique, a painter-illustrator, stage designer, and costume designer, created the costumes and sets for four productions: Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (1960), L’incoronazione di Poppea (1961), Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda with stage director Jeanine Charrat (1961), and Idomeneo (1963).
This photo shows L’incoronazione di Poppea, for which she designed an ancient palace in trompe-l’œil and dressed all singers in togas to recreate imperial Rome.
Profoundly influenced by the aesthetic impact of performances by the Ballets russes in early twentieth-century Paris, Gabriel Dussurget drew inspiration from their modernity and interdisciplinarity to shape the artistic identity of the Festival d’Aix, which he founded in 1948.
For a deeper understanding of the history of modern stagecraft at the Festival d’Aix, read this article about the Ballets russes.
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