Festival d'Aix-en-Provence Announces 66th Season - Handel, Mozart & More, Begins Today

Festival d'Aix-en-Provence Announces 66th Season - Handel, Mozart & More, Begins Today
The 66th annual Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, under the leadership of General Manager Bernard Foccroulle, will present four world premieres in 2014: new opera productions of Handel's Ariodante and Rossini's Il Turco in Italia, plus Katie Mitchell's staging of Bach cantatas, Trauernacht, and William Kentridge's multi-media version of Schubert's iconic song cycle, Winterreise. Also featured in the coming season is a new Festival production of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, a concert version of Rameau's Les Boréades, and a selection of orchestral concerts, recitals, and chamber music performances. In addition, the 17th annual European Academy of Music will offer more than 60 events and 250 young artists. From July 2 to 24, 2014, all events unfold in eight extraordinary venues, many of them open air, in and around the picturesque city of Aix-en-Provence.

Season highlights include the start of a three-year Festival residency by the Freiburger Barockorchester, one of the world's premiere period instrument ensembles, an evening with Orchestre de Paris and Waltraud Meier dedicated to Patrice Cheréau, and a concert with the World Orchestra of Peace to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I. Also of note, the Festival has commissioned a new cycle from composer Manfred Trojahn, on the poems of René Char.

"Creating a new Festival each year is both a great joy and a great challenge," said Bernard Foccroulle. "As General Manager, the 2014 edition of Festival d'Aix-en-Provence fulfills all that I could hope for. Music, poetry, theater, visual arts, and all the disciplines that harmonize with our operatic foundation are at the heart of this season of artistic excellence. From the first appearance of world-class artists like Pablo Heras-Casado and Simon McBurney to the return of Valery Gergiev, William Kentridge, and Marc Minkowski; from new works and commissions to performances by more than 250 young artists of the Academy, there is something here for everyone."

The Festival's 2014 productions will offer works spanning several centuries, continuing its established reputation as one of the world's foremost producers of opera and vocal programming. The season includes four world premieres and a new production in 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 return forgotten masterpieces to the stage.

Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), at the Grand Théâtre de Provence from July 2-23, will showcase Complicite theater Artistic Director Simon McBurney's spectacular staging of one of the most popular operas ever written. The fantastical story of Prince Tamino, his magic flute, and the bird-catcher Papageno on a mission to rescue Princess Pamina, is set in a musical style that marks the opera as one of Mozart's most unusual works, combining different styles and numerous Freemasonry references. Conductor Pablo Heras-Casado will lead theFreiburger Barockorchester and an outstanding cast of singers that includes Topi Lehtipuu,Mari Eriksmoen, Albina Shagimuratova, and Thomas Oliemans. This new Festival production of Die Zauberflöte is co-produced with the Nederlandse Opera and the English National Opera, in collaboration with Complicite.

Handel's Ariodante, at Théâtre de l'Archevêché from July 3-18, was the first of the composer's operas to be performed at London's Covent Garden only a few years after the theater's inauguration in 1732. The plot was inspired by Ariosto's Orlando furioso, which tells the story of a Scottish king's daughter Ginevra who, because of her love for the knight Ariodante, fuels the fiery jealousy of Duke Polinesso. This world premiere production ofAriodante is staged by the London-born and sometimes controversial director Richard Jones.Andrea Marcon will lead the Freiburger Barockorchester and a cast including Sarah Connolly, Patricia Petibon, Sandrine Piau and Sonia Prina. Ariodante is a co-production of Festival d'Aix-en-Provence and the Nederlandse Opera.

The world premiere production of Rossini's Il Turco in Italia (The Turk in Italy), at Théâtre de l'Archevêché from July 4-22, is directed by award-winning New York native Christopher Alden, acclaimed for his contemporary stagings of traditional works. One of Rossini's comic masterpieces, the plot follows the lives of the local Neapolitan bourgeoisie, a Turkish prince, the jealous husband Don Geronio, his flirtatious wife Fiorilla, and her admirer Narciso. After a series of high comedy twists and turns, all the lovers are reconciled at the end. Marc Minkowski will lead his Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble ensemble and a talented cast including Olga Peretyatko, Adrian Sâmpetrean, Lawrence Brownlee and Pietro Spagnoli, in a co-production of Festival d'Aix-en-Provence with Opéra de Dijon and Teatr Wielki.

Schubert's iconic song cycle, Winterreise, will be presented at the Auditorium du Conservatoire Darius Milhaud from July 4-17. Comprising 24 melodies for voice and piano based on the melancholy poems of Wilhelm Müller, the cycle explores the life of a young man unlucky in love by depicting his winter journey through an icy landscape. The Festival's production presents renowned baritone Matthias Goerne against a backdrop of video animations, montages, and collages created by South African artist William Kentridge, internationally recognized for his drawings and animated films. This world premiereproduction of Winterreise features Markus Hinterhäuser at the keyboard. The work is a co-production with Wiener Festwochen, The Holland Festival, KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen, Niedersächsische Musiktage (Hanover), Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg, l'Opéra de Lille, and Lincoln Center.

The world premiere of Trauernacht (The Angel's Hand), at the Théâtre du Jeu de PaumeJuly 11-21, presents a collection of J.S. Bach cantatas as visualized by the esteemed British director Katie Mitchell. Bach wrote more than 200 cantatas in his lifetime, many for the Leipzig parish where he was Cantor, and numerous others for anniversaries, funerals, and weddings. Many of these had texts inspired by the Bible and in Trauernacht, Mitchell returns to the Festival with a theatrical work that explores the spiritual power of Bach's musical dialogues between man and God. Noted French Baroque conductor and Bach authorityRaphaël Pichon will lead the singers and musicians of L'Académie Européenne de Musique for Trauernacht, a new production of Festival d'Aix-en-Provence and the Académie Européenne de Musique, co-produced with Wiener Festwochen.

Jean-Phillippe Rameau's Les Boréades, at the Grand Théâtre de Provence on July 18, was the composer's last opera. First performed at Festival d'Aix-en-Provence in 1982, the work returns this season in a concert version to mark the 250th anniversary of his death. The opera's unusual history states that rehearsals at the Paris Opera were interrupted in 1763 for unknown reasons and Rameau died shortly thereafter. The score was subsequently moved to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, where it remained unperformed for more than two centuries until revived to critical acclaim by the Festival. Les Boréades tells the story of how Queen Alphise's forbidden lover, Abaris, is revealed by Apollo to be a true descendant of Boreas, enabling the two of them to wed. Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble and young singers from the European Music Academy will be led by founder and Rameau specialist Marc Minkowski for the performance.

The 2014 Festival concert series will include several symphony performances at the Grand Théâtre de Provence, featuring the Orchestre de Paris under the baton of Paavo Järvi with mezzo Waltraud Meier in works by Vacchi, Wagner, Strauss and Tchaikovsky, in an homage to Patrice Chéreau?who passed away shortly after delivering the brilliant production of his last work, Elektra, at the Festival last summer; and two concerts by the Freiburger Barockorchester: an all-Bach program led by violinist/musical directors Petra Müllejans andGottfried von der Goltz, and a second performance conducted by Gottfried von der Goltz with pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout and cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras in works by Haydn, Mozart, and Salomon. A concert by the rising young musicians of the Orchestre des Jeunes de la Méditerranée and musical director Alain Altinoglu will offer a program by Garcia, Strauss, and Weber with soprano Léa Trommenschlager.

Two special evenings round out the larger ensemble and symphonic presentations. A cycle of three works commissioned by the Festival from German composer Manfred Trojahn, will be performed at the Auditorium du Conservatoire Darius Milhaud, Trojahn's pieces are dedicated to the politically committed poet René Char, and include L'Allégresse, a work especially written for the evening's soloist, soprano Sabine Devieilhe. Franck Ollu will conduct the Ensemble Modern in the program that also includes works by Bach and Ligeti.

The second highlight presents Valery Gergiev conducting the 2014 UNESCO Concert for Peace with the World Orchestra of Peace in works by Panufnik, Strauss, and Mahler to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I. Founded by Sir Georg Solti in 1995 for the 50thanniversary of the United Nations, the Orchestra comprises musicians from some 60 ensembles and 35 countries.

Acclaimed cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras, a coach in the Festival's 2014 Chamber Music Residency, will be the focus of a four-concert recital series titled Carte Blanche à Jean-Guihen Queyras. He and longtime collaborator, pianist Alexandre Tharaud, will perform works from Bach to Saariaho as well as a program exploring the similarities of improvisational musical works from Iran, Turkey and Greece and Eastern works they inspired. Other concerts include an all-Bach and Handel recital by the Italian conductor and harpsichordist Andrea Marcon on the magnificent organ of the St. Jean de Malte Church and a performance by the Quatuor Béla of works by Bartók, Trojahn, and Combier.

Musiques de la Méditerranée will continue the Festival's efforts to bridge the cultures of Europe and the Mediterranean that have become an essential part of daily life in the nearby city of Marseille. The first concert, Conde Claros, the Golden Age of Spain, will offer Renaissance and Baroque music with singer Françoise Atlan and guitarist Eduardo Egüez. A three-part mini-series, Oración: From Jerez to Alep and from Alep to Aix, will follow, in which Fawaz Baker (Syria/France), Amir El Saffar (Iraq/USA), and Ahmed Essyad (Morocco/France) reveal the connections between Christian and Muslim music in programs of traditional works and their own compositions.

The Festival d'Aix-en-Provence is devoted to musical training and sharing, and thanks to its Académie Européenne de Musique, an important part of its activities are dedicated to the training and promotion of young artists. Each year in June and July, the Académie selects young singers, instrumentalists, and creators from around the world for further training at Aix-en-Provence through 13 residencies. Under the guidance of distinguished artists and educators, they develop their vocal, instrumental and orchestral skills, their talent for composition, or their skills for creating new operas. At this year's Festival, the Académie-which welcomes approximately 8,000 spectators each year-will offer audiences an opportunity to discover 250 young artists in more than 60 public events, including master classes, public performances, concerts, and recitals. The 2014 public events and programs will take place from June 5 to July 27.

From June 5 to 29, visitors to Aix will be able to see operas, concerts, recitals and master classes - many of them free - that showcase the young artists of the Académie Européenne de Musique as well as established musicians appearing in the Festival's regular July programming. These advance events will culminate in PARADE[S], a free open-air concert of excerpts from Rossini's Il Turco in Italia, Le Barbier de Séville, as well as Rameau's Les Boréades led by Marc Minkowski with Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble at the Cours Mirabeau on June 29.

Highlights of the 2014 edition include a performance of Rossini's early one-act opera La Scala di Seta, the return of Les Voix de Silvacane, a series of three exceptional concerts juxtaposing the music of East and West in the beautiful Silvacane Abbey, and a classical show in homage to singer Pauline Viardot. Benjamin Dupé's sound installation "Fantôme" will have three performances in the Bois de L'Aune. Full details on June concerts and events will be available in May.
About Festival d'Aix-en-Provence
Founded in 1948, the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence is considered one of the most prestigious opera festivals in Europe. Its ability to bring together the world's best vocal talent and renowned international orchestras, and its commitment to the creation of interdisciplinary works, places the Festival among the most innovative and influential opera platforms in Europe. The Festival d'Aix presents new opera productions with celebrated artists and such eminent international orchestras as the London Symphony Orchestra, and the Berlin Philharmonic. In addition to its dedication to artistic quality, the Festival's essential missions include supporting the creation of new works and bringing opera to new audiences. Each year, the Festival commissions a contemporary work, calling upon such well-known composers as Oscar Bianchi (Thanks to my Eyes, 2011) and George Benjamin (Written on Skin, 2012). Thanks to many co-productions with opera companies around the world, the Festival's productions are seen internationally on major stages in such cultural centers as New York, Vienna, Amsterdam and Milan, contributing to the Festival's influence worldwide

L'Académie Européenne de Musique (The European Academy of Music) was established in 1998 as an extension of the Festival and contributes to the systematic policy of expanding audiences for the many public events the Festival offers beyond its role in professional development for young artists from around the world. As a center for training, teaching, and professional experience, the European Academy hosts nearly 100 young artists each year. For two months, they receive the best tools for improving technique and launching their careers through participation in the Festival's productions, and attendance at numerous concerts, conferences, and master classes. Some 1500 talented young instrumentalists, singers, stage directors, conductors and composers have attended the Academy since its inception.

In 2007, Bernard Foccroulle assumed the direction of the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence after 15 years as head of the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels. Convinced that opera, by its interdisciplinary nature, is the foundation for future artistic creation and an extraordinary space for dialogue, Bernard Foccroulle is particularly drawn to both the Baroque repertoire and contemporary works. He has been dedicated to pursuing his vision by making opera a lively meeting place for all. Under his leadership, the Festival has become a platform for exchange and reflection, where multiple art forms interact and audiences of all ages from a variety of backgrounds come together.

In 2013, 83,596 festival-goers took part in the 65th season of the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, which presented five operas, 13 concerts, and 62 Académie Européenne de Musique events.

The Festival gratefully acknowledges the following institutions for their support:
Vivendi - Official partner
HSBC - CIC - KPMG - Fondation Total - Fondation La Poste - Société Générale - Fondation Orange - Le Cercle des économistes - ArcelorMittal - Fondation Louis Roederer - Club Campra - IFILAF - Club des Mécènes
Lancôme - LVMH - Groupe Ponticelli Frères, GFC Construction, Saint Gobain, Derichebourg Multiservices

Also supporting the Festival
Aix-en-bus, Fondation CNA CGM, Universal Music, Les Vins de Provence, Vue en Ville, diptyque, Véolia Environnement, Evolem, Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne, Fondation Crédit Coopératif, Butard Enestot, XL Airways France

Professionnal Partners
SACEM - SACD - la Culture avec la copie privée