Two anniversaries and a Festival with a very topical slant

Two themes run through this 70th edition of the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence: on the one hand, feelings of love, and on the other, our relationship with the past in all its forms, whether mythological, historical, archaeological, etc.

From its very beginnings, opera has always drawn on ancient myths – Orpheus, Ariadne, Dido, stories of the Trojan War, etc. Not because of some preoccupation with the past, but because these age-old stories continued to speak to modern human beings. Just as singing is an indirect, sublime way of conveying reality and describing human passions, myths offer us an inexhaustible reservoir of stories which, coming as they do from time immemorial, hit us with the full force, with all the violence of convulsive situations, thwarted destinies, insoluble conflicts and the headiest of passions.

In the world of the opera, love rarely flows smoothly. A striking feature of this particular edition is the strength and diversity of its female figures, from the archetypal abandoned woman (Dido), the lost woman (Eurydice, Layla), to the incarnation of fidelity (Ariadne) or of free love (Zerbinetta). The Fiery Angel reveals a fascinating, fragile and elusive heroine, condemned as a witch in the frame of the German Renaissance; Seven Stones follows the desperate journey of a man who is guilty of murdering the woman he loved, a man in search of forgiveness. Only Mozart manages to reconcile the feminine and the masculine in The Magic Flute, albeit within a universe dominated by the patriarchy. In the context of the current debate on the place of women in our society, it is worth thinking about the social, ideological and philosophical framework that gave birth to these works of art, and which helped to spread this essentially masculine view of femininity.

The year 2018 also marks the 20th anniversary of our Académie, which gives us an opportunity to reconnect with many of the artists who have passed through its doors: successive generations have managed to create a “big family” whose members enjoy meeting up here and there. The Académie has radically transformed the Festival: without losing anything of its original vocation, it has been enriched, rejuvenated and diversified to become a key hub of operatic creation, able to welcome, train and support dozens of creative artists and hundreds of young performers.

At the same time, the Académie has been involved in developing the work of Passerelles – our educational and socio-artistic programmes – which, since 2007, have successfully delivered outreach initiatives and participative productions in partnership with hundreds of schools and associations, involving thousands of young people and adults from all backgrounds.

In this respect, Orfeo & Majnun is undoubtedly the culmination of our work, bringing together the different strands that have been our focus over the years: creation, participation, intercultural dialogue, European cooperation, etc. This ambitious project, combining an urban parade with outdoor opera, will harness the energy of hundreds and thousands of people – amateurs and professionals alike – in the festive and friendly atmosphere of Marseille-Provence 2018 and its theme: “Quel Amour!”.

To all those who have accompanied and supported us throughout these years, whether politicians, sponsors or audience members, I would like to say a huge THANK YOU!

Bernard Foccroulle