Each July since 1948, visitors to the town of Aix-en-Provence have had their ears delighted by the sounds of the Aix-en-Provence Lyric Art Festival. Held in the open air at the courtyard of the Archibishop's Palace during Provence's legendarily lovely summer nights, the festival has for half a decade exposed audiences to both selections from the classical masters, such as Mozart and Ravel, to world premieres of works by contemporary composers like George Benjamin. The three-week festival has expanded to become one of the most preeminent classical music events of the season.
History -- Gabriel Dussurget created the festival in 1948, deciding the inner courtyard of the Archibishop's Palace, located next to the cathedral in old town Aix, was the ideal venue. The first product was Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte, and every year since, in keeping with tradition, the festival has presented a piece by Mozart. Within the palace, at the Musee des Tapisseries, visitors can view sets and production designs from past festivals. The event opened to bel canto-style singing in 1974, with the 19th-century Italian repertory of Verdi and Donizetti performed by divas such as Sylvia Sass and Marilyn Horne. Director Louis Erlo followed with the baroque repertoire in 1985. In 1998, the festival celebrated its 50th anniversary when Stephane Lissner assumed the top spot, returning the festival to its roots with Don Giovanni, directed by Peter Brook
Highlights -- International music figures who have appeared at the Aix festival over the years include dance choreographer Pina Bausch and conductor Simon Rattle. Beginning in the 2010, the London Symphony Orchestra arrived to begin a multi-year residency with a focus on orchestral work. In 2010, Sir Colin Davis conducted, at the Grand Th??tre, two concerts--one dedicated to Berlioz and one to Mozart and Sibelius. In 2011, Davis conducted Mozart, and Louis Langree conducted La Traviata--Natalie Dessay's first Traviata in Europe. Canadian Robert Lepage's production of Stravinsky's The Nightingale was well-received in 2010 and went on to tour worldwide. The 2012 festival features a world premiere of George Benjamin's new opera, Written on Skin.
Venues--The overwhelming popularity of the festival has spilled over beyond the palace to other venues, hotels and theatres around Aix. These locations include the town's main commercial district, the Cours Mirabeau, the Th??tre du Jeu de Paume, the H?tel Maynier d'Opp?de, and the place des Quatre Dauphins in the Mazarin Quarter. These venues, besides allowing the festival to expand its offerings, create a festive atmosphere that envelops the entire town. Performances held at smaller venues add to the sense of intimacy for the concertgoer.
More Events-- Each summer, Aix opens its arms to music lovers from around the world, with events held to coincide with the festival and expand visitors' knowledge of multiple forms of music, from classical and jazz, rock to pop. Each July since 1998, the C?t? Cour festival has presented jazz, classical and world music at the Oblat Cloisters, the Granet Museum and the Town Hall. August through September, the Musique dans la Rue festival puts 40 free concerts where audiences can best enjoy them--right in the streets of Aix and at nightspots throughout the city. The Concerts in Aix series also stages children's concerts and operettas at a variety of venues from October through June.
If You Go-- The popularity of the festival means hotels are at a premium, during the summer, especially around July 14, Bastille Day. Be sure to reserve hotel rooms in advance. Package deals are available with discount tickets for children and adults. Tickets for festival events are available in person, over the phone, and you can find out more information on the festival's official Web site at
Amanda Cooper is a contributing writer for www.WeddingFavoursKingdom.co.uk, which carries quite a large selection of wedding accessories and Summer Favours. Amanda is a writer for other wedding and travel websites. When Amanda is not writing, she enjoys cooking, reading and bicycling.