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Festival d'Aix-en-Provence Announces 2014 Season Highlights, July 2-23, 2014

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The 66th season of the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, under the leadership of General Manager Bernard Foccroulle, will present the world premiere productions of operas by Handel and Rossini, a multi-media version of Schubert's Winterreise with video by the award-winning South African artist William Kentridge, as well as Trauernacht, a unique staging of Bach's sacred cantatas by British director Katie Mitchell. Also on the roster is a new Festival production of Die Zauberflöte, directed by Complicite's Artistic Director Simon McBurney. In celebration of the 250th anniversary of Rameau's death, a concert version of the composer's Les Boréades, featuring young singers selected by the Académie Européenne de Musique, will round out the Festival's major vocal presentations.

New this season is a collaboration with one of the world's premiere period instrument ensembles, the Freiburger Barockorchester. The Orchestra will be in residence at the Festival over the next few years, offering its own concerts as well as coaching sessions for young musicians in addition to performances with the Festival's opera productions.

Regarded as a key leader in the opera world, The Festival d'Aix-en-Provence's 2014 season of wide-ranging events will unfold in extraordinary and historical venues, many of them open-air, in and around the picturesque ancient Provençal city of Aix. Upholding the principles of its ongoing mission, the works programmed by Festival d'Aix-en-Provence demonstrate its steadfast commitment to present innovative productions of operatic classics, to support the creation of new works by today's leading composers, and to restore rarely-heard masterpieces to the stage.

Full details and casting of the Festival's 2014 series, including concerts of symphonic works, chamber music, recitals, and programs by the Académie Européenne de Musique (European Academy of Music) will be announced in the coming weeks.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Die Zauberflöte

Director Simon McBurney's spectacular new staging of one of the most popular operas ever written is brimming with theatricality and extraordinary imagination, and was performed to rave reviews at its Nederlandse Opera premiere in 2012 and this fall at the English National Opera. Mozart's last opera, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) was conducted by the composer at its premiere in Vienna approximately three month before his death. The work is actually a singspiel-an opera in which spoken dialogue replaces recitatives-based on a libretto by impresario and actor Emmanuel Schikaneder, one of Mozart's Masonic lodge brothers. The opera is also one of Mozart's most unusual works, combining different styles and full of Freemasonry references that examine man's search for enlightenment. The plot follows Prince Tamino, his magic flute, and the bird-catcher Papageno, his companion on a fantastical adventure full of magical creatures and unexpected challenges to rescue Princess Pamino from the realm of the sorcerer Sarastro.

Die Zauberflöte is directed by Simon McBurney, the award-winning writer, founder, and Artistic Director of England's Théâtre de Complicité (now Complicite); and conducted by Pablo Heras-Casado with the Freibruger Barockorchester. A co-production with the De Nederlandse and English National Opera, Die Zauberflöte will be given ten performances in the Grand Théâtre de Provence.

Georg Friedrich Handel: Ariodante ( World Premiere)

German Baroque composer Georg Friedrich Handel wrote more than 40 operas between 1705 and 1741. His Ariodante, created in 1735, was the first of Handel's operas to be performed at London's Covent Garden only a few years after the theater's inauguration in 1732. The plot is inspired by Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, which tells the story of the Scottish king's daughter, Ginerva, who is in love with the knight Ariodante. A jealous Duke Polinesso tries to break up the lovers by creating the appearance of infidelity, but the story resolves during a knightly tournament where Ariodante brings the truth to light.

The beginning of a three-year Handel cycle at the Festvial, Ariodante is staged by London-born director Richard Jones, whose uncompromising-and sometimes controversial-productions of such operas as Anna Nicole and Queen of Spades have earned him an international reputation. A co-production of the Festival D'Aix-en-Provence and De Nederlandse Opera, Ariodante will have six performances at the emblematic Théâtre de l'Archevêché with the Freiburger Barockorchster under the baton of Andrea Marcon.

Gioachino Rossini: Il Turco in Italia (World Premiere)

Rossini's Il Turco in Italia (The Turk in Italy) followed the double success of his operas Tancredi and The Italian Girl in Algiers. Although it received a somewhat critical reception at its first 1814 performance in Milan, it has come to be viewed as one of the composer's comic masterpieces. The story takes place on a Neapolitan beach where the poet Prosdocimo writes a tale based on the lives of the local bourgeoisie, a Turkish prince recently arrived in Italy, a jealous husband Don Geronio, his flirtatious wife Fiorilla, and her admirer Narciso. After numerous high comedy twists and turns, everything turns out well and the all the couples are reconciled. The Festival's production of Rossini's Il Turco in Italia is directed by award-winning New York native Christopher Alden, who has frequently expressed his desire to connect opera stories to the modern sensibility of younger audiences and is known for his contemporary stagings of such traditional works as his celebrated production of Handel's Partenope for Opera Australia.

Il Turco in Italia features French conductor Marc Minkowski leading his ensemble, Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble, for eight performances at the Théâtre de l'Archevêché.

Franz Schubert: Winterreise

Written near the end of Schubert's life, Winterreise (Winter's Journey), comprises 24 melodies for voice and piano based on the melancholy poems of Wilhelm Müller. The iconic song cycle explores the inner life of a young man unlucky in love by depicting his winter journey through an icy landscape and culminating with the image of an old vielle player who personifies death. The Festival's production of Winterreise presents renowned baritone Matthias Goerne against a backdrop of video animations, montages, and collages created by South African artist William Kentridge, best known for his drawings and animated films. No stranger to Aix-en-Provence, Kentridge's 2011 production of The Nose at the Festival was also critically-acclaimed at the Metropolitan Opera.

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More On: William Kent, Katie Mitchell, Simon McBurney, English National Opera, Richard Jones, Christopher Alden, Franz Schubert.

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by Peter Danish