THE PRINTEMPS DES ARTS DE MONTE-CARLO FESTIVAL
The Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo festival, created in 1970 at the instigation of Princess Grace of Monaco, has been presided over by H.R.H. the Princess of Hanover since 1984. It was then directed by Antoine Battaini, Director of Cultural Affairs in the Principality, assisted by Tibor Katona, former conductor of the Orchestre de Monte-Carlo and artistic consultant for the new festival. More than thirty years later, the adventure continues, more exciting than ever. In 1985, news of a second edition of the festival was announced during a Parisian press conference attended by Princess Caroline, this time at Ledoyen on the Champs-Élysées. Two new fields were to be added to the line-up: theatre and film. This festival was born under the best auspices with the top soloists invited: Daniel Barenboïm (and again in 1985), Ruggiero Raimondi, Ileana Cotrubas, Tereza Berganza. In 1986 they were followed by the Deller Consort, Maria-Joao Pires, Piero Capuccilli, the Talich Quartet… and Nathan Milstein (the legendary 82 year old violinist). In 1987, le Printemps welcomed Margaret Price and Alicia de Larrocha, and scheduled, over several years, a series of baroque operas that had never been seen before. Thus in 1987 people discovered Le Cinesi by Glück, under the direction of René Jacobs, in 1988 it was Il Pittor parigino by Cimarosa that they enjoyed, Alceste by Glück in 1989, Flavio by Handel in 1989, Mitridate in 1991, the year of Mozart, Montezuma by Vivaldi in 1992 and Orfeo by Ferdinando Bertoni in 1993.
Year after year, the Printemps des Arts posters remain prestigious: Yehudi Menuhin, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Marielle Nordmann, Renata Scotto, Montserrat Caballé, Nikita Magaloff, Lazar Berman, the Julliard Quartet, Shirley Verret, Yo-Yo Ma, Mstislav Rostropovitch, Murray Perraia, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Anne-Sophie Mutter and Radu Lupu. A whole succession of star-filled evenings! How could we forget the one where Katia Ricciarelli, at the peak of her glory, carried us on the wings of her song? Or the one where Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, a master respected by everyone, seemed to receive some divine inspiration? Luciano Pavarotti came in 1993, he was staying at the Metropole… While Michael Jackson, who had come for a television festival, was at the Hôtel de Paris. Fans of both men were competing by shouting from under their windows, with a vocal power that was inversely proportional to that of their idols.
Printemps des Arts was present at the debut of soloists like Vadim Repin and Maxim Vengerov, and even Cecilia Bartoli. There was an incredible discovery in 1989 of the baritone Thomas Quasthoff, with his deformed body and amazing talent. Since then, this hero of life and of the stage has worked wonders on the stage. Then in 1999, Ivo Pogorelich was discovered, the Yugoslavian pianist with the fascinating character, who caused Martha Argerich to resign from the jury of the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, where he was a candidate. The Printemps des Arts did not settle for just inviting soloists. It also hosted orchestras: the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Andre Previn in 1987, the Berlin Symphony Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Chailly in 1988, the Czech Philharmonic conducted by Vaclav Neumann in 1990, the London Philharmonic conducted by Lorin Maazel in 1997.
After the series of baroque operas came the creation of contemporary operas. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Lowell Liebermann in 1996, based on the work about Oscar Wilde’s homosexuality (the writer’s great-grandson was at the performance), Saisons en enfer by Marius Constant in 1999, and Cecilia by Charles Chaynes in 2000. In some years, theatre also found its place at le Printemps. And people applauded Pierre Dux and Denise Gence in Ionesco’s Chairs (1989), Geneviève Casile in 1996, Laurent Terzieff in 1997, the duo of Michel Bouquet and Claude Brasseur in a poignant imaginary confrontation between the head of the Fürtwangler orchestra and an SS leader in 2001. In 1989, at the instigation of the New York art dealer Marisa Del Re, the fine arts were also invited to the festival. In 1999, the Principality was invaded by the round figures of Botero’s statues.
The Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, under the direction of Marek Janowski, gave memorable Messiaen concerts two years running: it also accompanied the projection of the film Napoleon by Abel Gance.
It was in 2001 that the fate of the new Printemps des Arts would be sealed by the arrival of Marc Monnet, who set himself the objective of conquering a new audience, particularly young people. For this, he abolished borders between repertoires and periods of music by proposing common themes to follow the event from start to finish.
In 2003, the opening of Printemps was done with hunting musicians on the place du Palais; in 2004, with a street fanfare; in 2006, with a bell-ringer. Le Printemps has penetrated unexpected places (Musée Océanographique, Sportings in summer and winter, Grand Cabaret), and has even been invited into people’s homes with “concerts at home”. “Surprise concerts” were also started, with a simple concept: the audience did not know who they were going to hear or how they would get to the concert venues. In 2004, it was on a coach between Nice and Menton, in 2005 on a steam train to Cannes, There was also the historic arrival of Pierre Boulez, conducting the Ensemble Intercontemporain at the Sporting in 2006. In recent years, the festival invited Mauricio Kagel to present 2 pieces in 2007; François-Frédéric Guy played all of Beethoven’s sonatas in 2008; the greatest cellists were reunited for one night of cello in 2009 and an alternative night at the Parking des Pêcheurs ended with a fashion show set to music in 2010.
In 2011, the festival was transformed into 4 weekends and welcomed whirling dervishes along with the SWR Baden-Baden and Freiburg Symphony Orchestra. In 2012, the festival invited three of the greatest orchestras in Europe: the London Symphony Orchestra, the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich and the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden to play Bruckner’s symphonies and, in 2013, the festival hosted notably The Royal Ballet of Cambodia, the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev.
In 2014 the festival celebrated its 30th anniversary, thirty years of cultural adventures, thirty years of the Printemps des Arts except for one: in 2005 the festival was stopped after the death of Prince Rainier III. Le Printemps, the Principality and the world grieved for their “builder prince”. Their Royal Highnesses Prince Albert and Princess Caroline continue to support the cultural vitality of the Principality.