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Festival D'Aix-en-Provence Presents 65th Season

The 65th annual Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, under the leadership of General Manager Bernard Foccroulle, will feature five opera productions, a selection of orchestral concerts, recitals, chamber music performances, world music programs, and more than 50 events from the 16th annual European Academy of Music. The Festival marks important milestones this year: Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner's 200th birthday anniversaries; Benjamin Britten's centennial; the 50th anniversary of Francis Poulenc's death; and celebrates Marseille-Provence 2013, European Cultural Capital for the year. All events unfold in extraordinary venues, many of them open-air, in and around the picturesque ancient Provençal city: a Medieval archbishop's palace, an 18th century Italian-style theatre, a private courtyard hidden behind doors dating back to the time of Louis XV, and an 11th century Romanesque chapel inside the grounds of a Renaissance castle - as well as a state of the art, 1,350-seat theatre. The official portion of the Festival runs from July 4 to 27, 2013.

"For years, the Festival d'Aix has been eager to nurture the intersection of southern European, north African and Middle Eastern cultures," says Bernard Foccroulle. "This year, besides celebrating great anniversaries and giving our audiences an exceptional season, Marseille-Provence 2013, European Capital of Culture, has given us the opportunity to open ourselves up to Mediterranean cultures both near and distant. Besides an inter-cultural dialogue, the Festival's 2013 program also provides the opportunity for fertile exchanges between tradition and modernity and between historical legacies and the future."

The five 2013 productions continue the Festival's longtime reputation as one of the world's foremost opera producers. This season's program, which includes three new productions and a world premiere, spans the 17th through the 21st centuries. It offers a vast variety of musical and dramatic styles, exemplifying the triple mission of the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence: to present innovative productions of operatic classics; to support the creation of new works by today's leading composers; and to bring back forgotten masterpieces to the stage.

At the Grand Théâtre de Provence, stage director Patrice Chéreau and Esa-Pekka Salonen, conducting the Orchestre de Paris, take on the challenge of Richard Strauss' powerful Elektra, who will not rest until she has avenged the murder of her father Agamemnon. Hugo Von Hofmannstahl's libretto makes of Sophocles' ancient drama a searing statement on the human psyche, underlined by Strauss's muscular score. Singers Evelyn Herlitzius, Waltraud Meier, Adrianne Pieczonka and Mikhail Petrenko lead the outstanding cast. This new co-production with the Metropolitan Opera, Finnish National Opera, the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona and Berlin State Opera, features sets by Richard Peduzzi.

At the Théâtre de l'Archevêché, the new production of Giuseppe Verdi's masterful Rigoletto by Robert Carsen showcases a talented young cast that includes George Gagnidze, Irina Lungu, Giuseppe Filianoti, Arturo Chacon Cruz and Gábor Bretz in this popular adaptation of a Victor Hugo story about how a duke's jester sets off a tragic series of events when he tries to protect his daughter Gilda from the harsh realities of love. Maestro Gianandrea Noseda leads the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the London Symphony Orchestra.

Mozart's Don Giovanni returns to Aix in the acclaimed production by Dmitri Tcherniakov at the Théâtre de l'Archevêché. Marc Minkowski conducts the London Symphony Orchestra, with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir as well as a cast of rising stars including Rod Gilfry, Kyle Ketelsen, Maria Bengtsson and Paul Groves in this much-lovEd Morality tale about a philanderer's just desserts adapted by Lorenzo da Ponte.

Returning to Aix following last season's triumph with Written on Skin, Katie Mitchell directs the world premiere of Portuguese composer Vasco Mendonça's The House Taken Over. With a libretto adapted by Sam Holcroft from the novel Casa Tomada by Julio Cortázar, the opera follows the psychologically dark story of a brother and sister whose lives grow ever narrower and more claustrophobic inside their ancestral home. The roles of the two siblings will be premiered by Oliver Dunn and Kitty Whately. Etienne Siebens will conduct the Asko|Schönberg Ensemble at the historic Domaine du Grand Saint-Jean, which eerily echoes the country house in Cortázar's story.

At the historically appropriate Théâtre du Jeu de Paume, musical director Leonardo Garcia Alarcon and stage director Jean-Yves Ruf recreate the first production in three-and-a-half centuries of Elena, a dramma per musica by Francesco Cavalli. The Helen of the title is the face that launched a thousand ships, but in the libretto by Giovanni Faustini, Menelaus, Theseus and Menestheus compete for the object of their desire. The 1659 Venice premiere of this opera was a success, and was revived in Palermo two years later. But though the libretto was published and the score copied at Cavalli's request, the complete opera was never performed again. The cast includes Emöke Barath, Valer Barna-Sabadus, Fernando Guimaraes and Solenn' Lavanant Linke.

The 2013 Festival's concert series will include symphonic performances at the Grand Théâtre de Provence featuring: the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gianandrea Noseda and tenor Ian Bostridge in works by Britten and Shostakovich; the Orchestre de Paris in a Beethoven and Wagner concert, led by Esa-Pekka Salonen with bass René Pape, a second program of Berlioz, De Falla, Ravel and Lalo with conductor Alain Altinoglu, mezzo-soprano Nora Gubisch and violinist Vadim Repin; and Lisbon's Coro Gulbenkian in a program of sacred choral music by Bach, de Almeida, Fauré, Poulenc, and Milhaud at Saint-Sauveur Cathedral.

Venezia, da camera e da chiesá - Sacred and Secular Venetian Music of the Seventeenth Century, will be performed by harpsichordist Jean-Marc Aymes and soprano Maria Cristina Kiehr, as well as singers and intrumentalists of the Académie européenne de musique. The concert will consist of the magnificent "new music" of Claudio Monteverdi, Francesco Cavalli and their Venetian peers. Also at the Church of Saint Jean de Malte, Aymes will offer an organ and harpsichord recital of works by composers such as Girolamo Frescobaldi, Andrea Gabrieli and Bernardo Storace, to show off the contrapuntally rich keyboard repertoire of early-baroque Venice, Rome and Naples.

Tunisian violinist-composer Jasser Haj Youssef and quartet will offer a concert celebrating his début album Sira, with the help of the Camerata of l'Orchestre des Jeunes de la Méditerranée. The musical styles include baroque, contemporary, jazz and world influences, reflecting the conclusion of a Mediterranean intercultural partnership workshop designed to expose youth orchestra participants to many genres of music.

The renowned Jerusalem Quartet will present two programs of works by Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Smetana and Janácek. At the memorial of the Camp des Milles, Quatuor Béla presents a program of works of three central European composers whose lives were indelibly changed by Nazi Germany: Belá Bartók, who fled to the United States; György Ligeti, who lost nearly his whole family to deportation and extermination; and Czech Erwin Schulhoff, who died of exhaustion at the Wülzburg concentration camp.

As part of its world music programming in partnership with Marseille-Provence 2013, European Cultural Capital, the Festival presents cross-genre show AlefBa, which is the Persian term for alphabet. Under the artistic direction of Fabrizio Cassol, with ensemble, musicians and singers from Europe, Arab countries including Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, the concert will focus on the cultural aftermath of the Tahrir Square protests in Cairo. Eighteen months after the Arab Spring, Cairo has been a crucible of musical ferment as well, mixing traditional with modern and classical with dance and pop. Fabrizio Cassol has tapped into this musical energy to bring his audience an oratorio of the people - Tahrir-style.

16th Académie Européenne de Musique (European Academy of Music)
At the heart of the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence is a place devoted to musical training and sharing. The Festival has devoted part of its actions to train and promote young artists thanks to its Académie Européenne de Musique. Every year in June and July, the Académie welcomes young singers, instrumentalists and creators selected worldwide and wishing to further their training in Aix-en-Provence at seven residencies that run in June and July. Coming to work under the guidance of great artists and professors, they develop their vocal and instrumental interpretation as much as their talent for musical and scenic creation. The Académie usually welcomes approximately 8,000 spectators, and 2013 will offer the chance for them to discover approximately 200 young artists in almost 50 public events, including masterclasses, public performances, concerts and recitals, from June 3rd to July 27.

The Vocal Academy is open to singers and collaborative pianists finishing their studies and starting their professional career, frequently leading to roles in future Festival's productions. The 2013 residencies include work on Poulenc's Les Mamelles de Tirésias, art song, Mozart, Cavalli, and contemporary repertoire. The Academy of Chamber Music hosts a July residency for young professional ensembles wishing to expand their artistic horizons under the guidance of internationally renowned artists such as Andràs Keller and the Jerusalem String Quartet. The Opera Creation Workshop is a public conference held at the end of June and beginning of July to address the many facets of opera creation and interdisciplinary collaboration.


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by Richard Sasanow