The Festival d’Aix has entered a new era head-on, but still respects the basics that have made it a success for over seventy years. Our last edition, which united major artists and innovative and original projects, received international acclaim from both audiences and critics alike, and has encouraged us to continue down the same path.
Building from this experience, the 2020 Festival d’Aix succeeds in covering a rich repertoire, from Monteverdi’s work at the very beginnings of Baroque opera to the contemporary works of the INCISES series, dominated by the world premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s new opera Innocence; the last opus of the Mozart–Da Ponte trilogy; and two major twentieth-century works: Nikolai Rimsky- Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel and Alban Berg’s Wozzeck.
If we had to summarize the programme in just a few words, they would be the following: two officers from Naples trade fiancees to test their loyalty; a young mother dies at the jealous hand of a broken soldier; a Roman political schemer makes her liberating ascension; a wedding is haunted by the memories of past trauma; and a bloody revolution gives birth to a satire of authoritarianism and submission. All of the operas on the programme are based on a true incident or an historical event. They remind us that art is a response to necessity: the necessity to transcend the banality of reality and achieve something sublime and universal. They each show individuals who perform questionable acts, and who prove to be puppets of an infernal machine that pushes them relentlessly towards their destiny, for better or for worse. Each of the works, in its own way, is centred around the same existential question: in this vast fool’s game that is life, where does innocence end and guilt begin?
In its attempt to answer this question, the Festival can rely on a host of prominent artists, including, at the top of the list, Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra, making their big comeback to a residency at the Festival; directors Dmitri Tcherniakov, Simon McBurney and Ted Huffman; conductors Raphaël Pichon and Leonardo García Alarcón; and, for their Aix debut this year, Simon Stone, Barrie Kosky, Susanna Mälkki, and Thomas Hengelbrock and his Balthasar Neumann Ensemble.
The programme of operas will be enriched and extended by an offering of symphonic and chamber-music concerts, as well as a series of recitals by some of the world’s most admired singers in their field, including the countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński, the soprano Sabine Devieilhe and the baritone Christian Gerhaher — the undisputed successor to Dietrich Fisher-Dieskau — who will perform the title role in Wozzeck.
Other features of the programme include initiatives by the Académie; events during Aix en juin, which as of now are completely free; the street performances of Opéra de-ci de-là; Parade[s], a concert on the cours Mirabeau, with Simon Rattle conducting a Gershwin programme; and the Mediterranean Youth Orchestra, under its first ever chief conductor Duncan Ward.
This edition is also marked by an ambitious initiative fusing opera and the visual arts, thanks to a first-time collaboration with the Luma Foundation in Arles — in a project around Karlheinz Stockhausen — and Château La Coste, with Pascal Dusapin. My thanks go to the leaders of both the Luma Foundation and Château La Coste for making this work possible.
I look forward to welcoming you in Aix-en-Provence and hope you will take full advantage of every facet of the programme, which aims to reflect the unique artistic personality of this institution turned towards the future, towards pioneering new initiatives in education and cross-cultural interactions, and towards producing ground-breaking productions. My thanks reach out to our coproducers from all over the world, who have been prepared to trust the Festival consistently over the years. The Festival is preparing to celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2023. Its primary mission is to celebrate the vitality of opera, an art that must invite discussion and introspection, and contribute its own message of hope and cultural renewal.
My last words are words of profound thanks to the five major public entities that stand by our side, and to our multiple partners — from local businesses to European foundations, and other national and international groups — and, finally, to the increasing number of private donors, whose input has enabled us to grow and to consolidate our aspirations.
Have a great 2020 Festival!