Festival d'Aix-en-Provence

Photo: Théâtre de l'Archevêché, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence 2016


The Aix-en-Provence Festival is a classical music festival which was founded in 1948 by Gabriel Dussurget. In the same era, two other major French festivals were inaugurated: the Cannes Film Festival in 1946 and the Avignon Festival in 1947. The first edition of the Aix-en-Provence Festival was notably held at the Saint-Sauveur Cathedral and in various locations around the city; but the festival's most iconic location has always been the Cour de l'Archevêché. This is were the one and only opera of the 1948 edition – Mozart's Cosi fan tutte – was performed. Because of the lack of space and the lack of financial supports, the very first edition was relatively modest, but proved the artistic skills and the great motivation of its managers. The following summer, the festival premiered a new staging of Don Giovanni, in beautiful sets designed by Cassandre to replace the stage of 1948.

Mozart's operas stayed in the festival's spotlight until the beginning of the 1970s, when Bernard Lefort took over from Gabriel Dussurget to run the Aix-en-Provence Festival. He democratized the festival and focused on the voice – bel canto in particular but also jazz and folk singing. A singing contest, "La Cigale d'or" was created and rewarded artists like Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Gabriel Bacquier and Teresa Berganza, among others. During the 1980s, Louis Erlo ordered a new and larger stage for the Théâtre de l'Archevêché, in order to offer new possibilities to stage directors. In 1997, the theatre was renovated again and it was inaugurated in 1998 with Peter Brook's production of Don Giovanni, commissioned by the festival's new artistic director, Stéphane Lissner.

Since 1998, the Aix-en-Provence Festival increased its reputation of excellence on an international level. It now owns buildings where the settings and costumes are manufactured and stored. It has also developped great relationships with other operatic theatres such as the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, El Teatro Real de Madrid, La Monnaie de Bruxelles, the Bolshoi Theatre or Il Teatro alla Scala, where lots of its own productions are touring every year. A European Academy of Music was also created in 1998, pursuing Gabriel Dussurget's goal to support the young generation of musicians. Every summer, the Aix-en-Provence Festival thus helps young instrumentalists, composers, librettists, directors and choreographers to learn from great masters and pedagogues.

The festival is now run by Bernard Foccroulle since 2006. In 2007, the festival owned a new concert hall, the Grand Théâtre de Provence (1,300 seats). Its huge dimensions now allows the festival to host great productions: it was indeed inaugurated with a titanic production of Wagner's Die Walküre!