The Festival d’Aix-en-Provence is celebrating its 75th anniversary!
For 75 years, and more than ever, in the magical setting of Aix-en-Provence and its region, the Festival has presented artistic proposals that renew approaches and repertoires, broaden the contours of opera genre, enter into dialogue with other art forms and change the relationship between works, audiences and venues – thus sketching new directions for creation. The opening event of this year’s edition at the Théâtre de l’Archevêché is The Threepenny Opera, a masterpiece of satirical musical theatre performed by the troupe of the Comédie-Française, which marks Thomas Ostermeier’s debut on an operatic stage.
Hailed as a major international event, the reopening of the Stadium de Vitrolles is just as emblematic: thanks to this modular venue, all kind of projects can arise, which help develop the Festival’s identity and attract new audiences. This year, the Orchestre de Paris under the direction of Klaus Mäkelä will achieve the feat of performing Stravinsky’s three most famous ballets in a single evening, freely revisited by inventive filmmakers – Rebecca Zlotowski, Bertrand Mandico and Evangelia Kranioti – who create parables showing art, the human condition, and nature in the grip of excess.
This desire for innovation runs through the entire programme, in particular with Così fan tutte – the work of the Festival's debut in 1948 – conceived by Dmitri Tcherniakov as a bitter role-playing game for experienced couples; Wozzeck, which marks Berg's entry into the Festival's repertoire; the concert version of Meyerbeer's rare Prophète, proudly representing a genre it had never ventured into before; or a great cabaret evening in which the pianist Kirill Gerstein, one of the most fascinating musical personalities of our time, presides as a master of ceremonies.
For 75 years, and more than ever, contemporary music has been given pride of place – this year with three major creations: George Benjamin and Martin Crimp’s Picture a day like this, eleven years after the memorable success of Written on Skin – a vivid and thought-provoking fable that follows a young woman’s desperate search for a tangible proof of happiness; Philip Venables and Ted Huffman’s The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions, a baroque, iconoclastic musical revue joyously celebrating all differences; and an orchestral work by Betsy Jolas, co-commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra and the Festival to mark this anniversary. The ninety-seven-year-old composer, who attended the very first edition of the Festival, looks back with equanimity on her artistic journey. George Benjamin, Betsy Jolas and Kirill Gerstein are also featured in portraits illustrating the different facets of their art.
For 75 years, and more than ever, opera in Aix has been the mirror of the world, taking the shape of artistic parables from which beauty, emotion and lively thought arise, even from the darkest material. The Threepenny Opera, Così fan tutte, Wozzeck, Stravinsky’s ballets, Le Prophète, Otello, Lucie de Lammermoor: the works of this year’s edition conjure up ages of moral confusion and oppression, acts of hubris, and above all, schemes of manipulation – of the weak, of the women, of the masses – that very much resonate with our time. Most often, these existential fables and cruel initiatory journeys inevitably lead the individual and the community to their ruin but sometimes, they also paradoxically make self-discovery and emancipation possible, as the human being is shown to be both incredibly vulnerable and extraordinarily strong.
For 75 years, and more than ever, the Festival has been committed to excellence. Many of the orchestras that have written its recent history will be in Aix this summer – the London Symphony, the Mahler Chamber, the Balthasar Neumann orchestras and the Orchestre de l’Opéra de Lyon. Among the conductors, Sir Simon Rattle, Susanna Mälkki, Thomas Hengelbrock and Daniele Rustioni are back, as well as Michele Mariotti conducting the musical forces of the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, and Maxime Pascal with his ensemble Le Balcon. The most prominent stage directors have been brought together, such as Simon McBurney for Wozzeck – with Christian Gerhaher’s major incarnation in the title-role – or Daniel Jeanneteau and Marie-Christine Soma. Some of the greatest singers on the international scene are making their debut, in particular through the exceptional series of concert version operas and recitals, from Jonas Kaufmann and Asmik Grigorian to John Osborn, Anita Rachvelishvili, Lisette Oropesa, Maria Agresta and Pretty Yende. We are also looking forward to meeting again with artists such as Ludovic Tézier, Marianne Crebassa, Pene Pati, Florian Sempey, Nicole Chevalier and Jacquelyn Stucker, and to getting to know emerging names of the new generation with Mané Galoyan, Liv Redpath and Fatma Said.
An ambitious programme of fifteen concerts serves as a counterpoint to the operas, covering all periods and styles from Mozart to contemporary creation, from great choral works to symphonic concerts, not to mention chamber music, jazz, and Mediterranean music, where creators and virtuoso performers – such as Lakecia Benjamin, the Gharbi Twins, the Mosaïc sextet and the Noé Clerc Trio accompanied by Robinson Khoury and Minino Garay – share the same taste for collective work and transmission, to which is sometimes added a spiritual depth: those are the values of the great concert of the Mediterranean Youth Orchestra conducted by Duncan Ward.
Finally, the Festival is also the rich, diverse and free offer of Aix en juin: the Wajdi Riahi Trio and the ‘Voix de Silvacane’, where Arvo Pärt’s choruses resound, but also spirituals, and Sufi poetry; the concerts of the Vocal and Chamber Music Residencies of the Académie, put in the spotlight on the occasion of its 25th anniversary in the great concert Parade[s] on cours Mirabeau, with a programme from Mozart to Cuban music; a great weekend to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Passerelles educational and socio-artistic programme; the films presented in partnership with local cinemas; and a day dedicated to the opening of the great project related to the Festival’s collections and memory. Finally, the audience will once again be able to attend the ‘préludes’ preceding opera performances and discuss with the artists during the ‘tête-à-tête’ and ‘midis’ of the Festival – also available on #THEDIGITALSTAGE.
Dear audience, the artists, our teams and myself are happy to invite you next summer to discover or rediscover, through the performance art and its sensitive way of sharing, what makes the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence a unique experience. Once again and more than ever.
General Director of the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence