Festival D'Aix-en-Provence Launches 2015 Season Today

By: Jul. 02, 2015
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Festival d'Aix-en-Provence 2015, under the leadership of General Manager Bernard Foccroulle, will present world premiere productions of operas by Handel and Mozart; the return of director Robert Carsen's acclaimed 1991 Festival production of Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream; and the French premiere of Jonathan Dove's children's opera, The Monster in the Maze, led by Sir Simon Rattle with the London Symphony Orchestra. Major vocal presentations in 2015 will also include a new production of Serbian composer Ana Sokolovi's uncommonly original one-act a cappella opera Svadba (Marriage), and a double bill of Perséphone-Stravinsky's hybrid musical work for speaker, singers, dancers, and orchestra-with Tchaikovsky's last opera, Iolanta.

Season highlights include the launch of a three-year Stravinsky cycle to begin with the presentation of Perséphone, in addition to concerts led by artistic director Teodor Currentzis with the Choir MusicAeterna in performances including Stravinsky's ballet/cantata, Les Noces. The cycle will continue through 2017, exploring the broad scope of the great Russian composer's repertoire. Also of note, the London Symphony Orchestra returns after its 2009 - 13 residency at the Festival with two concerts under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle.

"More than 85,000 people came to Festival d'Aix-en-Provence last summer," said the Festival's General Manager Bernard Fouccroulle. "I envision surpassing that number in 2015 with the second year of our Handel Cycle, the launch of a new focus on Stravinsky, with genre-defying performances of dance, music, and film, and opera productions that range from classic Mozart to contemporary Britten to the groundbreaking work of Ana Sokolovi?. Not only do increasingly larger and diversified audiences come to the Festival each year; the caliber of our Academy attracts students from around the globe for further training. And the artistic product of the Festival travels the world on tour, adding to its international influence and building tomorrow's audiences. I fully expect Festival d'Aix-en-Provence 2015 to further expand our impact."

OPERA

Maintaining its established reputation as a key leader in the world of opera and a foremost producer of vocal programming, Festival d'Aix-en-Provence 2015 will present two world and one French premiere; a new Festival production and the return of a classic; as well as a double bill of one-act operas, all covering a broad range of musical and dramatic styles. The season exemplifies in many ways the Festival's mission to present innovative productions of traditional operas and support the creation of new works by today's leading composers.

Handel: Alcina (World Premiere) at the Grand Théâtre de Provence July 2 - 20

The second in a three-year Handel cycle at Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, Alcina premiered in 1735 as the composer's last masterpiece in the Italian opera arena. Taken from Ariosto's epic poem, Orlando Furioso, the magical plot follows the enchantress Alcina, who lures the warrior Ruggiero to her mysterious island. He falls under her spell and forsakes his betrothed, Bradamante. The title role remains one of the great prima donna characters in operatic repertoire, demanding both virtuosity and dramatic power. Patricia Petibon returns to sing the tragic sorceress, and the role of Ruggiero, will be performed by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky. Alcina is staged by British director Katie Mitchell; Venice Baroque Orchestra founder and harpsichordist Andrea Marcon will conduct the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra. Alcina is a new production of Festival d'Aix-en-Provence.

Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio) (World Premiere) at the Théâtre de l'Archevêché July 3 - 21

Mozart's three-act Die Entführung aus dem Serail was the first grand opera in the German language to be constructed as a singspiel, a German theatrical form that combines spoken and sung text. It premiered in Vienna's Burgtheatre in 1782 as part of Austrian emperor Joseph II's Nationalsingspeil project to perform works in the German language. The music, featuring some of Mozart's most spectacular arias, shows the Ottoman Empire influence of Austria's neighbor Turkey, clothed in a lighthearted plot that follows the attempts of the hero Belmonte to rescue his beloved Konstanze from the seraglio of the Pasha Selim. A new Festival production, the cast of Die Entführung aus dem Serail features Jane Archibald, Daniel Behle, David Portillo, and Tobias Moretti. The opera is staged by Austrian theater director Martin Kusej and conducted by Jérémie Rhorer leading the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra.

Benjamin Britten: A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Théâtre de l'Archevêché July 4 - 20

Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream celebrated the re-opening of Jubilee Hall in Sussex, and was premiered with the composer on the podium in June 1960 at the Aldeburgh Festival. Britten and his partner Peter Pears chose to adapt a libretto from Shakespeare's famous play for the opera. The story weaves a web of mischief as Oberon (sung by Lawrence Zazzo), uses his servant Puck (Miltos Yerolemou) to gain possession of a boy from his Queen Tytania (Sandrine Piau), while two pairs of lovers endure a fantastical series of magical spells before all is finally resolved in the end. Canadian director Robert Carsen's 1991 tremendously successful Festival d'Aix-en-Provence production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is revived this season with the Lyon National Opera Orchestra led by principal conductor Kazushi Ono.

Stravinsky's Perséphone and Tchaikovsky's Iolanta at the Grand Théâtre de Provence July 5 - 19

Festival d'Aix-en-Provence will launch its three-year Stravinsky Cycle with the composer's three-part melodrama Perséphone on a double bill with Tchaikovsky's last opera, Iolanta.

Perséphone is a hybrid theater work of song, choral singing, dance, instrumental music, and speech, performed with the title role spoken. The work was commissioned by Russian actress/arts patron Ida Rubenstein for a sung ballet on a poem by Andre Gide, and premiered at the Opéra Paris in 1934 under the baton of Stravinsky with Rubenstein herself playing the lead role. The plot is inspired by the Greek legend of Demeter, whose daughter Perséphone (danced by Dominique Blanc) is dragged into Hades by Pluto, god of the underworld. The priest Eumolphe (Paul Groves) tells the story. A compromise for her springtime release is arranged, and it is on this myth of spring's arrival that Gide based the text used by Stravinsky for the production.

Presented alongside Perséphone will be Tchaikovsky's 11th and last opera, Iolanta. The libretto was written by the composer's brother Modest, and is based on Danish writer Henrik Hertz's play King René's Daughter. In the opera, the king's daughter Iolanta (Ekaterina Scherbachenko) has been blind from birth but is kept from knowing she is different from other people. Through the true love of her suitor Count Vaudemont (Arnold Rutkowski), she undergoes a spiritual journey and discovers the gift of sight.

The Festival's double bill of Iolanta and Perséphone is directed by Peter Sellars; musical director Teodor Currentzis will lead the Orchestra and Choir of the Lyon National Opera with dancers from l'Amrita Performing Arts.

Ana Sokolovi?: Svadba (Marriage) at the Théâtre du Jeu de Paume July 3 - 16

This hour-long a cappella opera for six female voices offers a glimpse into the life of a Serbian woman, Milica, at a get-together with five girlfriends on the eve of her marriage. Sokolovi?, born in Belgrade and based in Montreal, has created a mesmerizing score of voices in murmuring patterns of Serbian texts, chords, and folk-song influenced tunes that are sung as Milica's friends drink, play games, and help the bride prepare for her upcoming marriage. The performers also add instrumental sounds. Svadba is new production of the Festival's Académie Européenne de Musique (European Academy of Music Academy). Canadian-based conductor Dárine Ni Mheadhra is the musical director with staging by European Academy of Music artist Ted Huffman, and Zack Winokur.

Jonathan Dove: The Monster in the Maze atthe Grand Théâtre de Provence July 8 - 9

The children's opera, The Monster in the Maze, retells the story of Theseus, Ariadne, and the rescue of those slated for sacrifice to the beastly Minotaur. British composer Jonathan Dove's new choral work was created to showcase local amateur singers-including children, teens, and adults-alongside professional artists. The Monster in the Maze will also be presented in London and Berlin this summer in each country's respective language before its French premiere at Festival d'Aix-en-Provence. The Festival production of the opera will use some 300 amateur musicians of all ages from the Aix region, with the London Symphony Orchestra joined by young professional soloists from the Mediterranean Youth Orchestra, an educational arm of the Festival that brings together instrumentalists from several countries.

The Monster in the Maze is conducted by Sir Simon Rattle with the London Symphony Orchestra, and staged by French director Marie-Eve Signeyrole.

MUSICAL THEATER

Festival d'Aix-en-Provence will offer two cross-genre events this summer that combine music, dance, and video. Spectres-a hybrid work featuring spoken word, six dancers from la Compagnie Grenade and the Béla Quartet-will be choreographed by Josette Baïz, who collaborated with the Festival in 2013. The world premiere production of Be With Me Now is a theatrical work conceived by Julien Fisera and Isabelle Kranabetter for five dancers, four instrumentalists, and video. Informed by Mozart's Magic Flute, the plot follows Tamino as he travels across Europe and centuries of music to find his lost love.

ORCHESTRAL AND CHAMBER MUSIC CONCERTS

The 2015 Festival concert series will offer three symphony performances at the Grand Théâtre de Provence: the resident Freiburg Baroque Orchestra with Pablo Heras-Casado on the podium and pianist Krystian Bezuidenhout in an evening including works by two prodigies, the "Spanish Mozart" Juan Chrisóstomo de Arriaga and Johann Nepomuk Hummel; the return of the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle with pianist Krystian Zimerman in a program of Brahms and Dvo?ák; and Kazushi Ono leading the young artists of the Mediterranean Youth Orchestra and soprano Ying Fang in a program featuring a contemporary concerto for orchestra by Ana Sokolovi?, whose innovative a cappella opera Svadba will also be performed at the Festival.

Rounding out the large ensemble presentations is Ensemble Musicatreize which, in remembrance of the Armenian genocide of 1915,will offer a special film-and-music screening of d'Artavazd Pelechian's silent film Les Saisons. Roland Hayrabedian will lead the Ensemble in the world premiere of two a cappella works by Michel Petrossian pre- and post-screening. As part of the Festival's Stravinsky Cycle, Teodor Currentzis will lead the Orchestra and Choir MusicaEterna in a program including the composer's ballet/cantata Les Noces with its folk texts based on a traditional Russian wedding, in addition toliturgical a cappella choral works.

Chamber music and recital highlights will include a concert by the Modigliani Quartet in a program tracing the evolution of the string quartet from Beethoven to Ravel to Dohnányi, and an all-Beethoven recital by Lebanese pianist Abdel Rahman El Bacha.

With Mediterranean Music, Festival d'Aix-en-Provence continues its outreach to the artistic arenas of both Europe and the Mediterranean via three multi-disciplinary concerts of cultural connection. This season will highlight the 60th anniversary of the International Festival of Baalbek-the oldest in the Middle East-with an evening of poetry and music in Arabic and French directed by Nabil El Azan. The Festival des Andalousies Atlantiques d'Essaquira willoffer an improvisational evening demonstrating the ties among Arab-Andalusian, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian music; and composer/saxophonist Fabrizio Cassol and the Mediterranean Youth Orchestra will offer a program of works composed by the young artists and written in the spirit of traditional Mediterranean music.

18th ACADÉMIE EUROPÉENNE DE MUSIQUE (EUROPEAN ACADEMY OF MUSIC)

The Festival d'Aix-en-Provence and its European Academy of Music are dedicated to the training, professional development, and promotion of young artists in both vocal and instrumental music. Each year the Academy offers young singers, opera creators, and musicians from around the world the opportunity to participate in residencies and perform in concerts and operas at the Festival. Under the guidance of distinguished artists and educators, they polish their talents with further training at Aix-en-Provence. At this year's Festival, the Academy-which welcomes some 8,000 spectators each year-will give audiences the chance to discover 250 young artists in more than 50 public events including master classes, public performances, concerts, and recitals. Public events and programs will take place from June 8 to July 21, 2015.

FESTIVAL D'AIX EN JUNE: A PRELUDE TO THE FESTIVAL D'AIX-EN-PROVENCE

From June 12 through 30, visitors to Aix will be able to see operas, concerts, recitals and master classes-many of them FREE-showcasing the young artists of the European Academy of Music as well as established musicians appearing in the Festival in July. Festival d'Aix-en-June will culminate on June 26 with the 7th annual PARADE[S], a free open-air event on the Cours Mirabeau featuring Andrea Marcon leading the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra. In line with this year's Handel Cycle, the program will feature some of the composer's great arias sung by leading soloists from this season's production of his opera Alcina.

Highlights of the 2015 edition include a three-concert choral series in the Silvacane Abbey by Les Voix de Silvacan; and Encor sur le Pavé Mon Pas Nocturne, a musical theater piece on the correspondence of Marcel Proust and Reynaldo Hahn directed by Vincent Huguet. This prelude to Festival d'Aix-en-Provenceenables an increasingly larger audience to experience all the musical and educational gifts offered by the Festival. Full details on June programming will be available in May.



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