Now established as one of the major French music festivals, the Beaune International Festival of Baroque and Romantic Opera centres on the open-air courtyard of the well-known fifteenth-century Hospices de Beaune, celebrated not only for its multicoloured roof of glazed tiles and for its annual auction of fine Burgundies, but also for its infirmary where music was sung to the sick lying in their carved wooden beds: a kind of musical therapy before its time.
The 2018 festival features Rodrigo, a fully-fledged opera written by Handel when he was only 22, first given in Florence, and full of the vitality and expressive arias which flowed from his pen in his youth. The third concert also features Handel: a recital by the highly-acclaimed Canadian soprano Vivica Genaux, winner of the prestigious annual Handel prize awarded by Halle, the city of his birth. Renowned both for her virtuosity in Handel’s passage-work as well as for her expressivity in the celebrated operatic arias which will form the core of her recital, she is accompanied by one of France’s most admired Baroque orchestras, Les Musiciens du Louvre. Her concert, in the basilica, will feature such sumptuous numbers as ‘Cara sposa’ from Rinaldo, and the exciting ‘Dopo notte’ from Ariodante, its wide range demanding both an alto and a soprano voice and defying normal voice classifications.
Between these we have The Marriage of Figaro directed by Rene Jacobs, a seasoned Mozartian who has cast two of his favourite and faithful principals in the leading roles: the Canadian bass-baritone Robert Gleadow and ‘born Mozartian’ Sophie Karthäuser. We can expect very fine singing and some comedy action in the semi-staged version, judging from past experience of the meticulously prepared spectacles at this festival.
In addition to the three performances, which begin at 9.00pm, there is time to explore some of the Route des vins where some of the oldest and most treasured vines are grown, to eat in some of Beaune’s best restaurants, to enjoy the spectacular countryside and to be introduced to wines in the cellars of Burgundy.
Take the Eurostar at c. 10.30am from London St Pancras to Paris. Coach transfer between stations to continue by TGV (high-speed train) to Le Creusot. Drive from here to Beaune where all four nights are spent. Dinner is in the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Loiseau des Vignes.
Beaune. A morning walk with a local guide takes in the concert venues. The stalwart Romanesque church of Notre-Dame has fine tapestries while the 15th-century Hospices de Beaune houses Rogier van der Weyden’s Last Judgement. Afternoon wine tasting in Beaune. Evening opera (concert version) in the courtyard of the Hospices de Beaune: Rodrigo (George Frideric Handel) with the orchestra of Les Accents directed by Thibault Noally.
Meursault, Beaune. Morning lecture followed by some free time to visit Beaune’s street market. Lunch in Meursault’s pretty town square is followed by a tasting at the prestigious Château de Meursault. Evening opera (concert version) in the courtyard of the Hospices de Beaune: The Marriage of Figaro (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) with the Vienna Philharmonia Chorus and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra directed by René Jacobs.
Dijon. Excursion to Burgundy’s capital, one of the most attractive of French cities with many fine buildings from the 11th to 18th centuries. The palace of the Valois dukes now houses a museum with extensive collections of work from the period of their rule (1364–1477). Free afternoon for independent exploration of Dijon. Evening recital at the Basilique Notre Dame: Vivica Genaux (mezzo-soprano) performs a selection of arias from operas by Handel and Porpora, accompanied by the ensemble Les Musiciens du Louvre, conducted by Thibault Noally.
Morning coach transfer to Le Creusot for the TGV to Paris. Drive to the Gare du Nord for the Eurostar to London St Pancras arriving at c. 4.00pm.
Professor Richard Langham Smith
Music historian, broadcaster and writer with a particular interest in early music and 19th- and 20th-century French music. He co-authored the Cambridge Opera Guide on Pelléas et Mélisande and has published widely on Debussy and Bizet. Richard is currently Research Professor at the Royal College of Music. He read Music at York University and the Amsterdam Conservatory. He is currently working on Bizet’s Carmen, preparing both a new edition and a monograph.
Price – per person
Two sharing: £2,640 or £2,330 without Eurostar & TGV. Single occupancy: £2,960 or £2,650 without Eurostar & TGV.
Return rail travel by Eurostar (Standard Premier) from London to Paris and by TGV (first class) from Paris to Le Creusot; private coach for transfers; hotel accommodation; breakfasts, 1 lunch and 3 dinners with water, wine, coffee; all tips; all taxes; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.
Top-category tickets to 3 performances costing c. £260. Open-air performances planned for the Hospices move to the basilica in inclement weather. At the time of going to print, the final festival programme is not confirmed so changes to the concert details given above are possible. Further details on soloists are due to be released in February 2018.
Hôtel le Cep, Beaune. A 4-star hotel, housed in two 16th-century mansions, and located in the heart of Beaune. Rooms are decorated in traditional Burgundy style. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.
Visits require a fair amount of walking and standing around. Burgundy is very hot in July. There are some late nights but starts are leisurely. You need to be able to lift your luggage on and off the train.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.