The 64th Annual Festival d’Aix-en-Provence Begins Today, July 5

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The 64th annual Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, under the leadership of General Manager Bernard Foccroulle, will open today, July 5 and run until July 27, 2012, featuring a diverse menu of seven opera and musical Theater Productions, seven orchestral concerts, five solo recitals, seven intimate chamber music performances, two world music programs, and more than thirty events from the 15th annual European Academy of Music. The Festival's wide-ranging events unfold in nine extraordinary venues, many of them open-air, in and around the picturesque ancient Provençal city: castles, a cathedral, a basilica, a palace courtyard, a historical site dating back to the 11th century BC, and an 18th Century Theatre transformed from a «jeu de paume» court where Louis XIV played in 1660.

The seven opera and musical Theater Productions featured in the Festival 2012 season reaffirm its longtime international reputation as one of the world's foremost opera producers. This season's program, including two world premieres, spans the early 17th through the 21st centuries and offers a vast variety of musical and dramatic styles, underlining the Festival's mission to expand the boundaries of the art form by creating new works, presenting traditional works in fresh modern interpretations, rediscovering rarely-heard masterpieces, and presenting innovative productions.

The 2012 Festival will offer complementary glimpses of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as a budding 18-year-old composer and as a fully mature master just a decade later. La finta giardiniera (1775), a funny yet touching tale of young love, betrayal, and reconciliation, heralds the full blossoming of Mozart's operatic genius and strongly foreshadows the profound and bittersweet comedy of Le nozze di Figaro. Rising stars Layla Claire, Julien Pregardien, and Colin Balzer lead the exciting young cast, conducted by Andreas Spering and Le Cercle de l'Harmonie in this new production, directed by Vincent Boussard and performed at the Domaine du Grand Saint-Jean. Le nozze di Figaro (1786), subtitled « The Day of Madness », traces not only the frenetic wedding day of the servants Susanna and Figaro but the triumph of love and wit over the tyranny which the French Revolution would soon topple. This new production will showcase a stellar ensemble led by the international opera stars Malin Byström, Patricia Petibon, Kyle Ketelsen, and Paolo Szot. Directed by Richard Brunel with Jérémie Rhorer (who recently made his New York debut conducting the Mostly Mozart festival orchestra) leading Le Cercle de l'Harmonie and the Chorus of Les Arts Florissants, it will be performed at the Théâtre de l'Archevêché.

Two world premieres highlight the 2012 Festival. Written on Skin by George Benjamin and Martin Crimp is based on a 13th-century Occitan tale of jealousy and violence which here unfolds under the gaze of 21st century angels. The acclaimed Katie Mitchell directs this opera about the explosive consequences of self-discovery and the limits of power that human beings can exercise over one another. Starring soprano Barbara Hannigan and countertenor Bejun Mehta, Written on Skin will be conducted by the composer, George Benjamin, leading the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and will be performed at the Grand Théâtre de Provence. The second world premiere will be Une Situation Huey P. Newton; Vies de Ya'seen Benbekhma et Ichen Bouachraoui by Jean Michel Bruyère and LFKs, which draws a parallel between the two historic leaders of the Black Panther Party in Oakland in 1966 and two young people in the Bois de Roi Rene in Aune, a poor district of Aix-en-Provence. With music by Thierry Arredondo, Laurent Dailleu, and Charles-Edouard de Surville, it will be performed at the Théâtre du Bois de l'Aune.

From the 21st century, the Festival reaches back to the Baroque era with Marc-Antoine Charpentier's David et Jonathas, in its Aix Festival premiere. A biblical tragedy which unfolds as passionately as any of the great tragédies-lyriques of its time, it portrays the friendship between David and Jonathan, son of King Saul, with shocking resonance. Sung by a cast of accomplished Baroque specialists including Dominique Visse, this new production will be staged by Andreas Homoki and conducted by William Christie, leading Les Arts Florissants, and will be performed at the Théâtre de l'Archevêché.

The Festival's adventurous operatic program is rounded out by two mini-masterpieces. Maurice Ravel's L'Enfant et les sortilèges, "A Lyric Fantasy in Two Parts" with a heart-warming libretto by the popular French novelist Colette, will have its Aix Festival premiere in a chamber version. Telling the story of an unruly young boy who learns vital lessons from some unlikely teachers, this new production will be performed at the Théâtre du Jeu de Paume. La Cambiale di matrimonio, Gioachino Rossini's delightful one-act farce about a marriage contract between a proper English girl and a « primitive » Canadian, will receive a rare performance (semi-staged) by the Baroque Academy of Ambronay, at the Grand Théâtre de Provence.

The 2012 Festival's concert series will feature renowned soloists and six orchestras performing symphonic works, as well as chamber music, recitals, and world music performances, supplemented by the programs of the 15th Académie Européenne de Musique, and its artist residencies, concerts and masterclasses. Complementing the breadth of its opera offerings, the Festival's generous program of concerts will offer depth, focusing squarely on the music of France, including works by Ravel, Charpentier, Debussy, Satie, and Messiaen. In addition, living composers including Henri Dutilleux and Betsy Jolas will share their works and their expertise with the young musicians of the Academy in concerts and masterclasses.

The dynamic Valery Gergiev will conduct the London Symphony Orchestra in an all-Russian program featuring violinist Nicolaj Znaider, as well as in a concert with renowned soprano Renée Fleming singing works by Ravel and Dutilleux. Les Arts Florissants, led by William Christie, will perform Charpentier's oratorios Caecilia, Virgo et Martyr, and Filius prodigus, in addition to an intriguing concert entitled "The lyric tragedy in five acts, airs, danses and scenes, from Cambert to Rameau". And the Mahler Chamber Orchestra will present the celebrated pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard in a concert of works by Wagner, Ravel, and George Benjamin, conducted by the composer. There will also be an all-Mozart concert by Le Cercle de l'Harmonie conducted by Jérémie Rhorer, and a mixed orchestral program by the Mediterranean Youth Orchestra.

Solo recitals will be performed by such distinguished musicians as Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano; Michel Bouvard, organ; Marc Coppey, cello; Béatrice Martin, harpsichord; Mari Eriksmoen, soprano; and duo pianists Eric Le Sage and Frank Braley. In addition, intimate evenings focused on the chamber works of Ravel and Satie will be offered. Concerts of music from Azerbaijan by Alim Qasimov, and of Andalusian traditional music with soprano Amel Brahim – Djelloull, round out the Festival's offerings.

Subscriptions and single tickets are on sale online at www.festival-aix.com , by phone at +33(0)4 34 08 02 17 and at the Festival's box office.

Festival d'Aix-en-Provence's opera performances will take place at Théâtre de l'Archevêché, Grand Théâtre de Provence, Théâtre du Bois de l'Aune, Théâtre du Jeu de Paume, and Domaine du Grand Saint-Jean.

Ticket prices for operas range from 15€ to 240€, concert tickets start at 12€, price reductions for young audience (under 30 years old) and special offers for children are available.