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Tour of Europe in 11 classical music festivals

Enescu. George Enescu remains, by far, the most famous Romanian composer in the history of music. We owe him above all the magnificent opera Œdipe. To pay homage to him, Bucharest organizes one of the biggest classical music festivals every two years. The program is not limited to the music of Enescu, but revisits the entire great repertoire, with a predilection for symphonic works. You will enjoy the most prestigious orchestras, which perform in particular in the Athenaeum, a magnificent hall built at the end of the 19th century, when Bucharest was nicknamed Little Paris; or in the Sala Palatului, whose communist architecture reminds us of the dark hours of Ceausescu’s dictatorship. Next edition in 2023. festivalenescu.ro

Glyndebourne. In Glyndebourne, attending an opera is a ritual. We must already reach this room lost in the middle of the English countryside, an hour by train from London. Once arrived, the charm works immediately, with the sheep grazing quietly in the surrounding fields. The public wears dresses and tuxedos: people come here to see and be seen! And during the intermission, tradition dictates that the public picnic on the lawns: on the menu, scones and champagne. And artistic programming in all this? Beautifully crafted, even if it sometimes lacks originality, with, in the pit, the excellent London Philharmonic Orchestra or the Orchestra of the Age of Lights. This summer, why not enjoy a Bohème by Puccini, staged by Floris Visser? From May 21 to August 28. glyndebourne.com

Of them classical music festivals in France

Aix en Provence. Aix-en-Provence is to classical music festivals what Avignon is to theatre: a must! If its DNA remains the Mozartian repertoire, the festival has opened up to other aesthetics, from the oldest to the most contemporary. The proof with this 74th edition concocted by the director, Pierre Audi: in addition Idomenee by Mozart, conducted by Raphaël Pichon, we can discover a new production by Salome by Strauss, with the sublime singer Elsa Dreisig, or even the rare Moses and Pharaoh by Rossini, directed by Tobias Kratzer. Without forgetting Monteverdi with The Coronation of Poppea and a creation by Pascal Dusapin. The opportunity to visit the different places of the festival: the mythical courtyard of the Archdiocese, the intimate jewel of the Jeu de Paume theater or the Grand Théâtre, with contemporary lines. From July 4 to 23. festival-aix.com

Saints. The revival of baroque music also took place in festivals. At the forefront of which is that of Saintes, whose tutelary figure remains the conductor Philippe Herreweghe. The Abbaye aux Dames has seen the greatest specialists in early music, the thurifers of the historically informed style. But for all that, do not imagine a kind of museum! On the contrary, it is in a festive atmosphere that this event takes place, which reconciles the beauty of the heritage and the intelligence of the programming. Note that the festival, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2022, brings together rising baroque ensembles, such as Les Surprises, Gli Incogniti or La Tempête… The event now has a new director, David Théodoridès. Will it be part of the continuity of this heritage or make some changes? From July 16 to 23. abbeyauxdames.org

In Switzerland and Austria

Lucerne. This is the high mass of symphonic music: every summer, the most prestigious orchestras in the world flock to the Lucerne Festival. Can you imagine a more enchanting setting? The concert hall, built by the architect Jean Nouvel, is located on the shores of Lake Lucerne, facing the peaks of the Alps of central Switzerland. A setting that is all the more ideal as the acoustics are both warm and transparent. Enough to take full advantage of the sounds of the philharmonics of Vienna, Berlin… The next edition of the festival will have diversity as its theme, highlighting classical music artists from minorities, such as the Chineke orchestra, and also featuring composers who are too little known, such as the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, considered “the black Mozart”. From August 9 to September 11. lucernefestival.ch

Bregenz. Imagine a scene on a lake: this is the brilliant bet, since 1946, of the Bregenz festival! If the spectators are seated on the shore, the artists evolve on a stage installed on the waters of Lake Constance. An idyllic setting which, this summer, will serve as a backdrop for Madame Butterfly by Puccini. And, as always in Bregenz, the interpretation promises to be first rate, with, in particular, the presence of the excellent Vienna Symphony Orchestra. In addition to opera on the lake stage, the Austrian festival also programs works in its indoor theater, as well as symphonic concerts. Nice musical coincidence, the lake bears the same name as Mozart’s wife… From July 20 to August 21. bregenzerfestspiele.com

Salzburg. Mozart’s birthplace hosts arguably the world’s most famous classical music festival every summer. The programming gives pride of place to opera, with star vocal casts and often caustic stagings. The Austrian writer Robert Musil defined himself as a “conservative anarchist”, terms which also perfectly suit the Salzburg Festival. The mix between heritage and contemporary breath is explosive here. Not to be missed next summer: a new production by Bluebeard’s Castle by Bartók, directed by Teodor Currentzis and directed by Romeo Castellucci; two brilliantly radical figures on the art scene. The Magic Flute Mozart will be directed by the inspired Joana Mallwitz, proof that the festival does not hesitate to call on women conductors, who have been sidelined for too long. From July 15 to August 31. salzburgerfestspiele.at

In Germany

bayreuth festival. This is the unmissable meeting place for lovers of Richard Wagner’s music. Every summer they climb the hill of Bayreuth, where the Festpielhaus (Festival Palace), designed by the composer himself, is located. An acoustically ideal setting (with its orchestra pit completely covered to let the voices through) even if the comfort of the folding seats is somewhat spartan… We come to discover productions of the Tetralogythe Wagnerian cycle inspired by Germanic mythology, some of which have already gone down in history, such as the one staged in 1976 by Patrice Chéreau and directed by Pierre Boulez. From July 25 to September 1. bayreuther-festspiele.de

Ingolstadt. Located north of Munich, Ingolstadt is nicknamed “Audi Stadt”. It is indeed in this Bavarian city that the cars of the German brand with the rings, owned by the Volkswagen group, are manufactured. The brand has always been committed to classical music; it is even at the origin of the creation of the orchestra of the city, made up of Georgian musicians who fled the political instability of their country. From now on, the brand is focusing more on events and is organizing the Audi Summer Concerts festival with outdoor concerts. The program, designed by violinist Lisa Batiashvili, gives pride of place to big names and mainstream works. But let’s not sulk our pleasure; it’s also a great way to make classical music, often accused of being elitist, accessible to as many people as possible. From June 30 to July 10.

Two classical music festivals in Italy

Ravello. When he imagined the tropical garden of Parsifal, Richard Wagner had in mind that of the villa Rufolo, in Ravello. Located on the heights of the Amalfi Coast, this small Italian town enjoys an absolutely exceptional panorama. And the best vantage point is right in the garden, where every summer the festival sets up what is perhaps the most beautiful stage in the world. Behind the musicians, the Mediterranean Sea stretches as far as the eye can see. If the acoustics are not the strong point of the place, one can only be amazed by this alliance of the senses. Especially since the programming puts the small dishes in the big ones by summoning the ultimate in the musical world. Note that some concerts take place indoors in the hall built by Oscar Niemeyer, the Brazilian architectural genius to whom we owe certain buildings in Brasilia. Same poetry of concrete and indolence of organic lines. Dates not communicated. ravellofestival.com

Verona. Who hasn’t dreamed of one day going to the Arena of Verona to listen to a masterpiece of Italian opera? Nearly 8,000 people can attend the performances. This summer there are three Verdi hits on the program: Nabucco, La Traviata and HASida. Do not imagine avant-garde productions: in Verona, we bet on classicism! Old-fashioned sets – with out-of-date stagings by Franco Zeffirelli –, spectacular voices and great symphonic mass… the lyrical pages are brilliantly reproduced, to the point of excess. And for those who would like to try another lyrical experience in a monument of Antiquity, we recommend the Chorégies d’Orange, whose wall of the theater offers a fascinating reverberation. The ancients had already understood everything in terms of acoustics. From June 17 to September 4. arena.it


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