Saturday, July 21, 2012

France Land of Festivals

Each summer, hundreds of festivals take place in the four corners of France for the pleasure of locals, vacationers from France and elsewhere.  Villages and towns attract visitors by staging artistic performances in castles, ancient abbeys and churches, roman arenas or in parks under the canopy of century old oak trees and on the beach. Each festival has its own recurrent theme and performances can range from opera to concert of classical,  reggae, jazz, pop, Celtic or other forms of music; from dance to  theatre and from cinema to photography.  France values art and for a summer it brings Moliere, Berlioz, Bejart, Doisneau, Gillepsie and other artists to the vacationing masses. One of the most active festival region is Provence in the south of France.  Here is a selection of "must attend" festivals in 2012:

  • Aix en Provence (July 5-27) Founded in 1948, the Festival International d'Art Lyrique has now become a world class opera venue. Held in late June and July every year, it takes place in the picturesque Provencal town of Aix and most notably in the former garden of the Archbishop Palace, the 18th century Theatre du Jeu de Paume and the Grand Theatre de Provence.  This year the program includes Mozart the Noces de Figaro and La Finta Giardiniera; Marc Antoine Charpentier's biblical tragedy David and Jonathas and a new opera "Written on Skin" by contemporary artists  Georges Benjamin and Martin Crimp which recounts a 12th century Occitan legend adapted for the 21st. century.

  • Nimes- (July 7-31) Opera lovers relish Les Choregies de Nimes, the oldest festival in France that dates from 1860. It is dedicated to opera and lyrical music and is staged in the well-preserved Roman Arena and the Theatre Antique.  This year's program honors Pucini's La Boheme (July 7,10) and Turandot (July 28, 31) and in the Cathedrale Notre Dame d'Orange,  Rossini's "Petite Messe Solenelle" has been performed (July 20, 21).

  • La Roque d'Antheron (July 21 -22 August)  For piano lovers this is the festival not to be missed.  For the last 31 years the International Piano Festival of la Roque d'Antheron has gained huge popularity in the musical world.  It attracts crowds who come to listen to world-class pianists and new talents perform classical as well as contemporary music from jazz to electronic.  La Roque d'Antheron is a village located at the foot of the Luberon Hills in Provence.  Musical venues are held in the park of the Chateau de Florans and in the nearby magnificent Cisterian Abbey of Silvacane.  The month long musical program includes works by Brahms, Chopin, Schubert, Ravel , Debussy, Beethoven, Bach to name a few.  

  • Avignon (7-28 of July)  Festival fever takes over the town of Avignon every July since 1947 when actor and stage director Jean Vilar created the festival.  This year, the 66th edition honors the birth of its founder. The festival is dedicated mainly to theatre but also dance, and art exhibitions. On average it stages 35-40 different works in about 300 performances performed outdoor or in historic venues. The works range from classical theatre to contemporary and avant-guard and often activist. This year The Seagull of Anton Tchekhov is to be played in the Honor Courtyard of the 14th century Pope's Palace (UNESCO World Heritage site); The Master and Margarita, work by Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov, is being directed by Simon McBurney. All throughout the festival the streets are animated with street fairs and performers.

Elsewhere in France the following exciting cultural events take place:

  • Jazz a Antibes-(July 12-22 )
  • Berlioz Festival in Cote Saint Andre (22 aout-September 2)-Festival honoring its native son, Berlioz.
  • Nuits de Fourvieres a Lyon-- (June 5-July 31)--Theatre, dance, music and cinema amidst Gallo-Roman ruins.
  • Festival Interceltique in Lorient Brittany (3-2 August)-- Celtic music
  • Francofolies of La Rochelle- (11-15 July) --Francophone contemporary music by performers from France, Quebec and other French speaking countries.

To partake at any of these popular festivals, plan well in advance and reserve early your hotel and tickets to performances.

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