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Since 1948 Aix-en-Provence is known throughout the world for its international festival of music. In the space of a few short years the city acquired a renown unprecedented in its history of over two millennia. Mozart in an eighteenth century setting and the warm magic of its midsummer’s nights attracted singers and musicians from all over the world, and audiences in whom Provence lay, like a dreamland, rich with eternal beauty, vineyards, fruit blossoms and fruits, the scents of thyme, lavender and rosemary, tables set in the shade of great plane trees, old stones carved and erected long ago, perched villages, blue skies, secluded Cistercian abbeys, and the Mediterranean cradle, where so much began
The fusion of beauty and intelligence, art and the senses, music and visual beauty proved irresistible. Performers, cognoscenti, and public came to Aix-en-Provence as they went to Salzburg and Edinburgh, in order to bask in refined luxury, a massage for the soul when the body is not simply twitching in the wake of long 0irksome office shiftse magic formula worked. The palace of the archbishop which already housed a magnificent tapestry museum, became an open-air theater during the month of July. Aix-en-Provence itself, Place d’Albertas, Place des Quatre Dauphins, the cathedral, cloisters, convents, courtyards and neighbouring château parks, resounded with music in the twilight and moonlight hours. For fifty years the spell has suspended disbelief, and for fifty years, in the wings, the battle over its cost, its form, the frenzy and the fury of a grandiose undertaking in a half-pint provincial backwater has raged unabated.
Is it not Mozart, nor is it Don Giovanni, Cosi Fan Tutti, Berlioz or Beethoven, nor the world’s most prestigious soloists, orchestras, and conductors who have made the festival what it is today. All have played a prodigious part in a venture that has weathered the dread imprecations of accountants and bursars. No arithmetic, however finely fiddled, will ever determine how much Aix’s national and international stature today owes to a festival born of a dream in the post-war years of 1948. What is certain is that, fifty years after its birth and a long alluring though spurious flirtation with Mozart and the world’s leading composers and musicians, Aix has begun a new phase in its musical history.
  Its past, Campra and Milhaud, will, thanks to the inspiration of a new director, Stephane Lissner, receive increased recognition. The newly founded European Academy of Music, the dynamic Darius Milhaud Conservatory, and the international renown of a Rip Van Winkle market town that snoozed through a nineteenth century that produced Cézanne and Zola, give promise of audible "lendemains qui chantent". At the same time, "oh miracle of Enlightenment ! " the local population is invited to the banquet. Low-priced tickets are offered to those who, for many years, had to be content to gape at the elegant parade of estrangers , or worse, of "Parisiens", dressed in finery.


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