THE ROYAL VOICES
After two seasons packed with emotional highlights, Versailles Festival returns for the summer in the world’s most fascinating Palace.
Its five features are now solidly established: the Musical Fountains Show along with 13 performances of the Fountains Night Show, large-scale open-air entertainments in the park of the Palace; in 2013, the Grand Royal Carrousel of Versailles; a giant Masked Ball in the Orangerie, designed this year by Kamel Ouali; the exhibition of contemporary art which this year is dedicated to Giuseppe Penone; and lastly, a cycle of prestigious concerts in the finest rooms of the Palace.
The organisers were tempted, after the seasons devoted to Vivaldi and Handel, to programme another monograph. And to some extent it pays homage to André Le Nôtre – this year marks the 400th anniversary of his birth – who inspired some of the artistic projects selected for 2013: the two Fountains Shows that originated with him, the extravagant Masked Ball designed by Kamel Ouali and presented in the Orangerie – that Cathedral designed for plants by Le Nôtre – as well as the Grand Royal Carrousel in the open air, and the art exhibition by Giuseppe Penone, organised with the keen backing of president Catherine Pégard. However, the architect of the Gardens could not provide the only theme for a cycle of shows. So, moving away from the monographic concept of the two previous seasons and opening a new era to mark the maturity of this festival, the theme of Royal Voices will now guide us.
The singing voice has echoed around the majestic spaces of Versailles since its creation and this festival is centred on three of them: the Royal Opera, the Royal Chapel and the Hall of Mirrors. Sacred works dedicated "ad majorem Dei gloriam" will be performed in the Royal Chapel, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner, Laurence Equilbey, Christina Pluhar and Jordi Savall; while William Christie will be conducting pastoral works under the peristyle of Trianon, in Music for the King’s Gardens, surrounded by the splendid park designed by Le Nôtre for his sovereign. The Royal Opera will feature Handel’s Alessandro and Acis and Galatea, Lully’s Amadis, and Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Royal Voices thanks to their architectural setting, but above all the extraordinary vocal quality of the artistes brought together: Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Max-Emanuel Cencic, Vivica Genaux, Sandrine Piau and Magdalena Kozena, with lastly Cecilia Bartoli who returns to Versailles one year after the splendid film she made here when she filled almost the entire Palace with the music of Agostino Steffani. Last but not least, the Royal Voices of those two truly exceptional choirs: the universally acclaimed Monteverdi Choir and the Chœur Accentus, now regular guests of Versailles.
Centred on Louis XIV and his faithful Le Nôtre, as well as the works of Mozart, the musical programme will be exceptionally rich. And there will also be surprises: Thierry Malandain has choreographed a new ballet for Versailles, Cendrillon, based on the celebrated tale of Cinderella by Charles Perrault (another famous contemporary of Lully, Lalande and Charpentier who are featured this season), which will be accompanied in the orchestra pit by the Orchestre Symphonique d'Euskadi. Basking in the fantastic success of its recording, Handel’s Alessandro comes from Athens in the production by Max-Emanuel Cencic, for its French premiere directed by Lucinda Childs. Jordi Savall will light up the Royal Chapel with musical pieces on the theme of the celebration of Peace, to mark the anniversary of the Peace of Utrecht (1713).
Lastly, the Festival programme includes the recreation of a Royal Carrousel for the first time since the reign of Louis XIV: this show brought together during the glorious centuries of the monarchy the best riders of the Kingdom on the most outstanding horses of the royal stables to perform an allegoric evocation of the majesty of the Fighting King and his "knights". This equestrian and pyrotechnical display will be worthy of the memory of the great Royal Carrousels that have left their trace in the history of France.
All this in Versailles, where the Royal Voices will ring out once again!