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21.6.05

Fête de la Musique

Last year, I wrote about the annual Fête de la Musique, which happens in France on every summer solstice, June 21, and now has spread to about 100 other countries. The idea is that the whole day is given over to performances by everyone and anyone who can make a musical sound, professionals and amateurs. Of course, this does not mean only classical music, although the times that I have been in Paris to see this event, that's what I have spent most of my time listening to, as you might have guessed.

In a quick glance over the program, some interesting events stood out:

  • Simultaneously at the Place Broglie in Strasbourg and the Place Salvator in Mulhouse tonight at 9:45 pm, a film of Rameau's opera Les Boréades will be shown on giant screens. The production is from the Opéra National du Rhin and was conducted by Emmanuelle Haïm and staged by Laurent Laffargueen.
  • In Rouen at 7:30 pm, a concert by soloists from the Opéra de Rouen, in the hémicycle.
  • At the Place Mendès-France in Lille at 6:30 pm, the Orchestre National de Lille will be conducted by Jean-Claude Casadesus, in a program including Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Ravel.
  • In Paris, in the hall under I. M. Pei's famous pyramid at the Louvre, at 10 pm, the Orchestre National de France will play Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade, conducted by Kurt Masur. This concert will be broadcast live on France Musiques.
  • Also in Paris, pianist Alexandre Tharaud (who was here in Washington in March) will play a recital of pieces by Ravel and Chabrier at 8 pm, in the auditorium of the Musée d'Orsay.
  • Perhaps most interesting, at the Palais Garnier at 7 pm, the Opéra National de Paris presents violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, from the Emerson Quartet, along with director Simon McBurney, in a preview related to their upcoming premiere of Shostakovich's piece The Noise of Time.
Music is apparently on the rise in France, shockingly so. A very interesting article by Christian Merlin (Des orchestres à l'heure européenne, June 21) in Le Figaro says that "twice as many French teenagers sing or play an instrument than in the generations born before 1960. Some 800,000 students are enrolled in music schools, and 10 million young people receive musical instruction at school." Don't even get me started on the subject of musical education in the United States, especially here in the District of Columbia, where it is nonexistent except at private schools.

As I wrote in my column for DCist (Classical Music Agenda, June 21), the D.C. government's attempt to import the Fête de la Musique last year apparently has failed, since I have heard nothing about it this year. However, the French embassy is hosting an evening of events this Friday (June 24, from 7 to 11 pm), with the main act being Les Primitifs du Futur, a musette group founded by cartoonist Robert Crumb and guitarist Dominique Cravic. You will pay $20 at the door to get into this event at La Maison Française (4101 Reservoir Road NW).

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