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Avignon Festival Opens Next Week

The Avignon Festival is set to open next week, and its director, Olivier Py, stirred the pot by drawing a parallel between the story of Shakespeare's King Lear and the legacy of Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the ultra-right party Le Front National, in an interview for France Inter. Jérôme Lachasse has a report (Olivier Py : «Le roi Lear est plus métaphysique que Le Pen», June 24) for Le Figaro (my translation):

"[He insisted] on the importance of culture and education: "What will always make our country shine is culture. Politicians would do well to understand that culture and education -- personally, I do not separate the two -- are the future of our country. I am one of those people who think we are saved by others. A great culture, a great civilization is marked by its capacity to welcome others," he added. "I also think it is the glory of France, the welcoming of others." The theme of this year's festival is "I am the other," with a "focus on Argentina and an important presence from the Arab world." [...]

Among the planned performances will be a King Lear opening on July 4, directed by Olivier Py himself: "It is the greatest play of the 20th century, even if it was written in the 17th century," jokes the Avignon Festival director. "It tells the story of a catastrophe, the death of politics, which concerns us today quite violently." Patrick Cohen, morning host of France Inter, then brought up a parallel between the theme of Shakespeare's play, about an aging king betrayed by his daughters, with the life today of the ex-president of the Front National, Jean-Marie Le Pen. "King Lear is not only an aging king, he is also a king facing death, who confronts his own body, his own failure. It is much more metaphysical than Jean-Marie Le Pen!"
Against the backdrop of the cancellation of many summer festivals, due to lack of funding, even the Avignon Festival has had its budget cut back, forcing a shortening of the festival by two days this year. Local governments especially have had to cut funding, although Py points out that the Avignon Festival brings in 25 to 30 million euro to Avignon and its surroundings.

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