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Highlights: Festival d'Aix-en-Provence Announces 2015 Opera Season

By Louise Burton l.burton@classicalite.com on Dec 26, 2014 05:08 PM EST

One of Europe's most prestigious opera festivals, the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence recently announced opera highlights of its upcoming season, held July 2-21, 2015 at picturesque and historical venues in and around the ancient Provençal city of Aix.

Vocal highlights include world premiere productions of Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio), staged by Austrian theater director Martin Kusej, currently artistic director of Munich's Residenz Theatre; and Handel's Alcina, staged by British director Katie Mitchell, following her successful productions of Written on Skin and Trauernacht at the Festival in recent years.

The Festival will also focus on contemporary opera, with a new production of Serbian composer Ana Sokolović's one-act a cappella opera Svadba (Marriage), 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.

More highlights include a revival of director Robert Carsen's acclaimed 1991 Festival production of Benjamin Britten's opera A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the start of a three-year Stravinsky cycle, continuing through 2017. The first production will be Stravinsky's opera Persephone, a melodrama for tenor, female narrator, choir, children's choir, dancers and orchestra. Persephone will be presented on a double bill with Tchaikovsky's last opera Iolanta.

It's a little-known fact that Tchaikovsky composed 11 operas, in addition to the symphonies and ballets for which he is more widely known. The libretto of Iolanta was written by the composer's brother Modest, and is based on Danish writer Henrik Hertz's play King René's Daughter, a romanticized account of Yolande de Bar, the Duchess of Lorraine. In the opera, the king's daughter Iolanta has been blind from birth but is kept from knowing she is different from other people, or even that she is a princess. Through the true love of her suitor Vaudemont, and a Moorish doctor, she undergoes a spiritual journey and discovers the gift of sight.

The double bill of Iolanta and Persephone was dubbed "A shining study in vision" by the Wall Street Journal at Teatro Real de Madrid's production in 2012, which now comes to Festival d'Aix with its uncompromisingly original director, Peter Sellars. Musical director Teodor Currentzis will lead the Orchestra and Choir of the Lyon National Opera with dancers from Amrita Performing Arts, Cambodia in five performances at the Grand Théâtre de Provence.

The Stravinsky cycle will continue with artistic director Teodor Currentzis leading the Choir MusicAeterna in performances of Stravinsky's sacred choral works and his ballet/cantata, Les Noces. The cycle will continue through 2017, exploring the broad scope of the Russian composer's vision, from his operas and choral works to his symphonies and less frequently heard sacred pieces.

Svadba, the a cappella opera for six female voices by Ana Sokolović, offers a glimpse into the life of a Serbian woman, Milica, at a get-together with five girlfriends on the eve of her marriage. Sokolović, born in Belgrade and based in Montreal, has written a score full of 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.

Svadba is a new production of the Festival's Académie Européenne de Musique (European Academy of Music). The production will receive five performances at the Théâtre du Jeu de Paume.

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 terrifying Minotaur. The idea for the work was born of conductor Sir Simon Rattle's desire to showcase local amateur singers--including children, teens, and adults--alongside professional artists in a new choral work.

The Festival production will use hundreds of amateur choristers from the Aix region and players from the Mediterranean Youth Orchestra--an educational arm of the Festival that brings together instrumentalists from several countries--joining young professional soloists from its Académie Européenne de Musique and the London Symphony Orchestra.

The Monster in the Maze is conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, staged by French director Marie-Eve Signeyrole, and will have two performances in the Grand Théâtre de Provence.

Full details and casting of the 2015 Festival d'Aix, including concerts of symphonic works, chamber music, recitals, and programs by the Académie Européenne de Musique (European Academy of Music) will be announced in the coming weeks.

Until then, here is a preview of the Festival, in this video featuring excerpts from Handel's Ariodante in 2014:

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TagsAix-en-Provence, Handel, Alcina, Mozart, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Martin Kusej, Katie Mitchell, London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Simon Rattle, Stravinsky