Palace of Versailles to be the scene of extravagant Baroque-inspired festival this summer
Versailles Spectacles, the organization in charge of a small, year-round opera season and summer musical entertainment at the Château de Versailles near Paris, today unveiled a spectacular summer festival called Venise Vivaldi Versailles, running from June 24 to July 17.
The co-producer of the festival is the record label Naïve, which will be celebrating the conclusion of a massive, 12-year project to record all of Vivaldi's music (a project that has included Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux, back when she was starting out).
The aesthetic inspiration comes from the extravagant parties thrown in and around the palace by King Louis XV (1710-1774). (Details here.)
Mezzo Cecilia Bartoli and red-hot countertenor Philippe Jaroussky present solo recitals, Jordi Savall leads a performance of Vivaldi's opera Teuzzone, William Christie leads staged performances of Lully's opera Atys, there will be several different interpretations of Vivaldi's Four Seasons -- and John Malkovich is doing a musical play on the life of Casanova.
There will be evenings of fireworks mixed with performance art and music, and even a Baroque-themed masked ball at the Orangerie on July 9.
One of my favourite of the Naïve Vivaldi recordings is La Senna festeggiante (Festival time on the Seine). There is a single, undated, manuscript copy of the score for this serenata (a secular mix of vocal and instrumental movements that's a cross between a cantata and an opera) at the National Library in Turin. The extensive background notes that came with my copy of the Naïve album -- the 12th in the Vivaldi series, and the first of his secular voal music, back in 2001 -- say that the piece was written between 1722-25, a time when Vivaldi was the favourite composer of France's ambassador to Venice, the Comte de Gergy.
You can find all of the details on this album here.
Written as the culmination of a day-long party, the Italian serenata was sort of like an English masque. La Senna festeggiante is totally over the top -- and fabulous. Unfortunately, it's too obscure to draw tourists to Versailles, so it won't be part of the summer lineup.
But that doesn't mean we can't listen to the Overture. This is from a live, 2009 performance by period-performance ensemble Il delirio fantastico led by Vincent Bernhardt: