Le Dilettante d'Avignon
Favorite thing: The opera I saw in Avignon was a concert performance of Le Dilettante d'Avignon by Jacques-Fromental Halévy (1799-1862). It was the first performance of this opera in well over a hundred years. There were numerous microphones set up all over the stage because they were recording the performance to make a CD of it.
The text for this opera was begun by the French playwright François-Benoît Hoffman (1760-1828), who apparently was not related to his contemporary, the German author E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822).
The title figure of this comic opera is a Molière-like character, Maisonneuve, who is supposed to be the Director of the Avignon Opera in the early nineteenth century. Like many French people at that time, Maisonneuve was convinced that only Italians could sing opera properly, so he ordered his stage director to fire all the French singers, including the entire chorus, and hire Italian singers instead.
Maisonneuve himself insisted on being called Casanova. His daughter Elise, a soprano, went by the Italian name of Corinaldi. So the stage director simply re-hired all the French singers and gave them Italian names. Since Maisonneuve spoke hardly any Italian he didn’t notice the difference for a long time, and the others could string him along.
There is a funny scene where his daughter tries to teach him to pronounce the Italian word for aveuglement (meaning blindness or self-deception), and another where he starts getting suspicious because the supposedly Italian tenor speaks perfect French.
Second photo: In the first row, from left to right: The tenor Mathias Vidal, who played the role of Dubreuil aka Imbroglio; the soprano Virginie Pochon, who played Marianne aka Marinette; the soprano Mélody Louledjian, who played Elise aka Corinaldi; and the baritone Arnaud Marzorati, who played the comic role of Maisonneuve aka Casanova.
Third photo: I must admit that the soprano Mélody Louledjian has a great voice and fantastic stage presence. She was excellent in the role of Elise – even though she was only their second choice to be the singer of this role.
Fourth photo: Their first choice was Eva Ganizate, who was memorialized on this page at the beginning of the program booklet. The text reads: “This concert is dedicated to the memory of Eva Ganizate, who tragically lost her life on the 4th of January of this year. A rising star of the French lyrical scene, she was scheduled to sing the role of Elise in the Dilittante d’Avignon.”
They did not explain how she died, but I already knew since I had read about it at the time. On her twenty-eighth birthday, she and a friend were riding their bicycles along a country road at night when they were hit by a car, and she was killed instantly. The press reports all noted that they did not have lights on their bicycles and were not wearing reflective clothing, but did not mention the behavior of the car driver. Was the driver speeding, phoning or texting? No one seems to have asked. While I am certainly in favor of using bicycle lights at night – Eva Ganizate might still be alive if she had used them – what bothers me is that in France as in other over-motorized countries the press and the police are quick to blame the victims of road violence, without even investigating the behavior of the assailants.
Fifth photo: An illuminated poster advertising Le Dilettante d'Avignon.
Address: 1 Rue Racine, 84000 Avignon
Directions: Place de l’Horloge, next door to the City Hall
Location and photo on monumentum.fr
Phone: +33 4 90 14 26 00
Next: The Bridge of Avignon
- Historical Travel
- Theater Travel
Get your Avignon Pass at the Tourist Office
Favorite thing: It's hard to think of a Tourist Information Office that is as conveniently located as Avignon Tourisme. The office is located on Rue de la Republique, the main thoroughfare into the old town, and I would recommend that you start your visit here, not only to pick up information, but to collect your Avignon Pass (this can be collected at any of the participating museums and monuments, but as the chances are that you'll be walking past here anyway, you might as well capitalise on the opportunity).
I confess to being a little confused about the Avignon Pass before I arrived, so here are the key points that will hopefully save you the same confusion.
Firstly, the pass is free, and allows you a substantial discount on admission to many of Avignon's main attractions. As the discount can be anything up to 50% on the full admission price (more usually 10-20%) frankly you'd need to be crazy not to take advantage of this.
Secondly, the pass covers up to five people who don't need to be related, so if you're travelling in a small group, one will suffice.
Thirdly, the pass is valid for 15 days after the date on which you visit your first museum or monument. You'll have to pay full admission for the first visit, where they will stamp your Pass, and thereafter you're eligible for the discounted rate.
Quite apart from the pass, the Avignon Passion pamphlet that his handed out is a very useful little publication. It contains a city map and packed full of all sorts of information - altogether a very superior piece of tourist literature, so well done to the designers! Just bear in mind that Avignon is full of twisty backstreets, not all of which can be labelled on a map of this scale.
For more detail on the range of services offered by Avignon Tourisme, as well as opening hours, check www.avignon-tourisme.com
Note that there is also a smaller tourist information centre at the Les Halles fresh produce market (only open 10:00 - 13:00 daily).
Navigating around Avignon
Favorite thing: Like most medieval cities, Avignon is a knot of tiny, twisting roads with no predictable layout. Which make it a charming place to wander around, but somewhat of a challenge to navigate!
This can be a challenge if you're looking for somewhere specific that's located away from one of the main thoroughfares. The free map in the Avignon Passion pamphlet that accompanies the Avignon Pass is a useful tool, but the scale is simply too small to be able to name each and every minor street, and the same is true of maps in the standard tour guides. So, if you're trying to find somewhere specific (such as a hotel or restaurant), then I suggest that you drop into the Tourist Office on Rue de la Republique and buy a map on a larger scale.
Having said that, there are much worse fates than to find yourself lost in Avignon! Indeed, getting lost is part of the fun in my opinion, and one of my favourite ways of exploring a new town is to put away the map and just follow your nose! If this sounds intimidating, bear in mind that the old part of Avignon is pretty compact, and you are bounded by the city walls, so you're not going to wander miles off track, and chances are that you'll find many interesting and charming things en route to reward you for your initiative in venturing off the beaten track!
"Buy local and safeguard your health"
Fondest memory: I saw several of these notices posted around Avignon, and they made me smirk because they smacked of dressing up agricultural protectionism with inferred social responsibility - very French!
I quite agree that stating that beef comes from France (and in this case, Spain too) was very valid at the time of the 'mad cow disease' (BSE) crisis in 1996, when the provenance of meat was indeed a big deal. British beef exports were banned from 1996 and the ban was only lifted in May 2006. However, given that this photo was taken in September 2011, one would imagine that the warning is no longer current .. unless it reflects a deep distrust of non-French agricultural practices ... quite likely!
Favorite thing: Tourist Office
41, cours Jean Jaurès/Rue de la République
BP8-84004 Avignon Cedex 1
Cédex 1 – Francia/France
Tel : (+33) (0)4 32 74 32 74
Fax : (+33) (0)4 90 82 95 03
E. mail: email@example.com
Favorite thing: If your gonna be here for several days and see many sites and museums, it may be a good idea to acquire the Avignon Pass. It can be obtained from any museum or historic site in the city. With this in hand, it gets you reduced entry fees to all the places of interest. It also gets you discounts on boat and bus tours.
The Weather in Avignon
Favorite thing: Don’t forget to check the
Weather before the visit.
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