Spotlight on Soft Power: June 2016

Mediterranean Youth Orchestra © Vincent Beaume


Festival d’Aix-en-Provence

International Festival of Lyric Art

Aix in June

Aix-en-Provence, France

June 4-26


The Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, International Festival of Lyric Art, is kicking off its 2016 celebration with a month long prelude of musical events called Aix en Juin/Aix in June. The Festival d’Aix takes place in its namesake, the town of Aix-en-Provence, France. The festival was founded as a response to the Second World War, when all of Europe was struggling to rebuild their infrastructure, culture and identity.  France responded by launching a string of arts festivals, such as the Cannes Film Festival in 1946, and the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence in 1948. Since its founding, and especially over the past few years, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence has gained a reputation for launching innovative and international lyric opera performances; it is a laboratory where existing and experimental opera meet to embrace cultures from across the world.

On June 4, Aix in June begins with an evening of performances both classical and creative, ranging from a selection of works from 20th-century Russian composer Igor Stravinsky to the Ibn Zaydún multicultural musical group. The latter is led by Moneim Adwan, a concert singer of Udiste and Palestinian heritage who describes his music as “pan-Oriental,” and features Tunisian violinist Zied Zouari. The Ibn Zaydun musical group will perform a selection of original compositions inspired by the 12th-century eponymous Arab poet, weaving ancient and contemporary sounds to lead the audience on a journey through time and space.

Both Moneim Adwan and Zied Zouari will also perform separately later in the festival. In July, Adwan will direct his original opera based on Indian fables about animals, “Kalila wa Dimna,” to be sung in French and Arabic. Zouari, whose music blends Afro-Arab influences with Turkish and Hindu jazz, has made a name for himself for breathing new life into the language of contemporary Arabic violin.

© Illustration : Brecht Evens | Conception graphique : Clément Vial

June will continue to play host to innovative musical events that demonstrate the festival’s dedication to international exchanges. The Mediterranean basin encompasses three continents, making it one of the richest points of cultural convergence in the world. Highlighting the reciprocal and inexorable relationship between Mediterranean identities, Festival d’Aix has created several initiatives to support the dynamic musical culture of the Mediterranean region.

The Mediterranean Youth Orchestra of the Festival d’Aix, one such initiative, will perform June 24. 101 young musicians from 25 nationalities have been selected and trained by expert musicians. They are given the opportunity to experience the professional life of musicians by performing in concerts at the Festival d’Aix and on tour in the Mediterranean region.

Another initiative of the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence focused on supporting musicians of the Mediterranean basin is the Medinea Network. It was established in 2014 as a platform to recruit artists and support the exchange of ideas and best practices.  In 2016, the Medinea Network is encouraging artists to explore intercultural projects that draw influence from its partner countries across the world. Attendees at the festival can look forward to Medinea’s 2016 resident courses: Cairo Jazz Station, in partnership with the Makan/Egyptian Center for Culture and Arts will “explore the crossroads of jazz and the contemporary music of the Arab World,” while Zyriab and Us, a coproduction with Berklee College of Music/Valencia Campus and the Casa Arabe will unveil “a new vision of the Arab-Andalusian heritage.”

Technological advancements have enabled the Festival’s creative collaborations to reverberate far beyond France. The performances, as in past years, will be recorded for later screenings at French Institutes and French Embassies across five continents. Also in recent years, the festival has expanded its international reach by engaging in multi-year international partnerships with theatres, music festivals, and ministries of culture in countries such as China, Russia, and Bahrain. These partnerships include co-productions, commissions, and reciprocal cultural performances; educational and participatory projects for young musicians, composers, and singers; and training of technicians, communications, and public-relations teams.

These partnerships ensure that the Festival’s impact, as an incubator for cultural diplomacy, is felt throughout the year. The Festival d’Aix-en-Provence gives rhythm to the multicultural spirit of the Mediterranean, using the transcendent power of music to nurture international dialogue, encourage cultural innovation, and promote the international exchange of ideas and skills.