Founder of the Baroque Music Festival in Beaune, Anne Blanchard is happy to have written the first notes for a festival that is referenced world-wide. Before its 36th edition (July 6th-29th), she’ll share a little about this incredible cultural adventure.
Interviewed by Dominique Bruillot / Translation by Martha Webber-Desforges / Photo by Jonas Jacquel
Thirty-five years ago, the idea of a festival dedicated to baroque opera began to take shape: was it your ambition that led to such a well-known event?
The idea was basically to share my passion for baroque music, which was not well known, with a larger audience. But it’s true that I had the intention to propose productions with very high standards, it was the only way to reach the biggest audience… One thing led to another, the festival did more than just accompany this “baroque revolution” with the resurrection of forgotten works of art played on instruments from the baroque period; we invited pioneers, most of whom have become real international stars, such as William Christie, René Jacobs or Jordi Savall. In addition, we have actively tried to reach more people by proposing operas in big theaters in France (Paris) and Europe (Brussels, Madrid, Milan…).
Can we consider that the festival is the biggest in its category in the world?
Yes! We offer of nine to ten operas and oratorios per edition. The press often calls Beaune’s festival the “Salzburg of Baroque”, the European Capital of baroque or the lyrical European summer gathering!
The festival takes place in Beaune, but the auditions and castings all happen in Paris…
Yes, it’s mostly in Paris (and in other European capitals) that I meet the conductors and the orchestras, that I audition the singers for roles in the operas, that I participate in the jury for the singing competitions, that I meet journalists from the national and international press as well as companies that sponsor the festival and can help finance our productions; that’s also where some of the rehearsals are held.
Thirty-five years of existence and thirty-five years of complicity…what do you owe Kader Hassissi, who has been your right-hand man?
He is the strategy-maker, the organizer, and the brand-developer of the Beaune Baroque Music Festival. He ensures the rigorous management that allows us to find an equilibrium: Kader knew how to quickly find significant financial resources and use those resources for the development of the artistic project that I had already drawn up. Above all, he put in place a network to have our productions all over Europe, both with the festivals and with the operas, but he also created a recording contract for our productions with recording studios which is like a souvenir from the festival.
How do you imagine the festival in ten years?
Before that, after baroque and Mozart, we opened the festival to a romantic repertoire with a cycle of operas from Rossini. This way, you can hear two of his most popular operas next July: the Italian in Algiers, and the Barber of Seville, of course, using baroque period instruments. After the festival, we’ll think about it with the Administrative Council.
For whom, among all the artists that participate in the festival, do you feel the most affection?
Definitely William Christie, who started his career in Beaune, in 1985, two years after the festival was created and who has since come back almost every year. Over the course of 30 years, some strong friendships and bonds have surely been made. He’s a conductor who is more than admirable, unique, and someone to whom we are grateful for the renaissance of this baroque repertoire and more precisely the French baroque opera under Louis XIV.
You are a real Beaunoise, the granddaughter of an old mayor of Beaune…Did that have anything to do with the birth of this event?
At first, it was really a passion for music, interpreted by period instruments, (that have a very different sound than today’s instruments) that pushed me to start this festival. It takes place, of course, in my exceptional hometown where my roots can, indeed, be traced back.
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