5 Must-See Shows at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence!

  • March 18, 2024
  • Theatre in Paris exclusives
  • Jenna Burns

5 Must-See Shows at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence!

Longer days, warmer nights… there is plenty to look forward to in the summer season, particularly if you happen to be spending it in the south of France! But did you know that there is also a world-famous opera festival on the cards…?


What is the Festival d’Art Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence?

Created in 1948, the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence remains one of the leading events of the opera season! Boasting programmes dedicated to innovative new productions, the highest quality concerts, and unique staging, this acclaimed opera festival is a marriage between art and innovation unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. A veritable celebration of operatic excellence, this festival rose to fame with a modest production of the classic opera Cosí fan tutte in 1948. However, its humble beginnings paved the way for more than 60 years of creative collaboration with artists from all across the world. In 2023, the opera festival was awarded the Best Festival Award by the Oper! Awards for its 2022 season. Based in Germany, the Oper! Awards recognize the best creatives of the international opera scene.

This special 2024 season kicks off the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence’s 76th year, and the season promises more spectacle, more risks, and a strong emphasis on creation. If you’re looking for something to do in the South of France this summer, look no further…!

Best shows to see at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence

The Threepenny Opera at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence / L’OPÉRA DE QUAT’SOUS AU FESTIVAL D'AIX-EN-PROVENCE  / The Beggar's Opera de John Gay

Pelléas et Mélisande

(French with English surtitles // July 9th, 12th, 15th, and 17th 2024)

Regarded as one of the greatest talents of the impressionist musical canon, prolific French composer Claude Debussy didn’t just stop at creating musical scores — his legacy of greatness also left behind a host of scintillating operas. One such opera takes to the stage of the Grand Théatre de Provence this summer 2024 - Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande.

The Orchestre de l'Opéra de Lyon will be accompanying this dramatic piece with Debussy’s appropriately enchanting score. Immerse yourself in the profound highs and lows of this captivating romance as desire and passion supersede social convention, culminating in drastic (and often fatal) consequences. When Mélisande is found alone and disorientated in the midst of a dark forest, she is rescued by and subsequently married to the half-brother of the king, Golaud. However, a love triangle ensues when the king’s son, the titular Pelléas, is also mesmerised by Mélisande’s divine beauty. Tragedy occurs when fits of jealousy incite deathly consequences…

This gripping tale has certainly stood the test of time. Debussy’s impeccable skills as both a composer and librettist rise to their full potential in this incredible exploration of jealousy and desire — not to be missed this 2024 at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence!

Get your tickets to Pelléas et Mélisande!

Picture a Day Like This at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence / PICTURE A DAY LIKE THIS AU FESTIVAL D'AIX-EN-PROVENCE

Madama Butterfly

(Italian with English & French surtitles // July 8th — 19th, 2024)

A piece that has discovered worldwide acclaim since its premiere in 1904, even the least initiated opera fan will be familiar with this classical Japanese tale. The creative product of Puccini, Luigi Illica, and Giuseppe Giasoca, Madama Butterfly now appears as a part of the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence’s impeccable 2024 line-up as a touching ode to the centenary of Giacomo Puccini's death.

A stellar cast promises to pay tribute to this timeless tale, with Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho assuming the role of the tragic protagonist Cio-Cio-San, and tenor Adam Smith as her American lover, B.F. Pinkerton. A young Japanese geisha, Cio-Cio-San quickly becomes enamoured with the American officer Pinkerton, unaware of his ulterior motives. When he returns to America, he leaves Cio-Cio-San pregnant and vulnerable, yet still she eagerly awaits his return. However, fate has yet another blow in store for the young woman, as Pinkerton reveals that he has married. Gripped with dishonour, Cio-Cio-San must turn towards the ultimate sacrifice…

The open-air Théâtre de l'Archévêché is the perfect setting for this traditional Japanese tale. Feel the warm caress of the summer breeze like gentle blossom petals on your skin as this story for the ages transports you to another time…Madama Butterfly at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence is certainly a classic that cannot be missed!

Get your tickets to Madama Butterfly!


Samson by Rameau

(French with English & French surtitles // July 9th, 12th, and 15th 2024)

Bear witness to the revival of an antique piece, lost to the perils of censorship…
Art is a fantastic means of revisiting and learning more about periods of history to which we can never be privy. As such, it is immensely important to ensure that select works are not lost to time, either on account of poor documentation or deliberate censorship. The latter is the case for this, Jean-Philippe Rameau’s forgotten opera, which is revitalised with all the glory of its heyday this year at the Festival d’Art Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence!

German director Claus Guth and French conductor Raphaël Pichon join forces this 2024 season to re-enter this opera into the public eye. Alongside the immaculacy of the Pygmalion Choir and Orchestra, contemporary talents such as American baritone Jarret Ott, American soprano Jacquelyn Stucker, and France’s own mezzo-soprano Lea Desandre bristle with renewed vivacity in this reawakened piece. In tradition with the nuances of the 18th-century lyrical tragedy, Guth and Pichon seeks to marry epic grandeur and the sensitivity of human emotion. As such, Rameau’s Samson is figured in this adaptation as an expression of the spirit of the piece rather than an identical copy of its original libretto.

A piece that is reopened to the public and a sweet summer evening punctuated by the dulcet tones of Baroque music in the charming outdoor Théâtre de l'Archévêché. What’s not to love?

Get your tickets to Samson by Rameau!

théâtre de l'archevêché

Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria

(Italian with English & French surtitles // July 19th, 20th, and 21st, 2024)

The late great prolific Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi is known for a host of different works: L’Orfeo and L’incoronazione di Poppea to name just a few. The Festival d’Art Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence welcomes an opera of epic proportions to the stage of the charming Théâtre du Jeu de Paume this year — Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria is a guaranteed hit for fans of epic poetry and operatic classics alike!

First performed in 1640, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria follows Ulysses on the return leg of his legendary Odyssey. A cadre of highly talented artists are tasked with capturing the mystical nature of this tale, of which staging director Pierre Audi is sure to make light work. Assuming the role of Homer’s epic hero is John Brancy, whose exquisite baritone voice reaches its full potential in this scintillating tribute. At his side, mezzo-soprano Deepa Johnny takes on the role of Penelope. When set against Monteverdi’s exquisite score, as perfected by Leonardo Garcia Alarcón and his ensemble Cappella Mediterranea, another world is cultivated right before your eyes, upon the stage of the Théâtre du Jeu de Paume in Aix-en-Provence!

These specialists in Italian Baroque music will certainly pay justice to Monteverdi’s incredible musical work. Spectators will be charmed and amused by Monteverdi’s signature proclivity for recitar cantando in his vocal work — a technique in which the vocal lines more closely imitate the prosody of spoken speech. Subtle orchestrations will reverberate throughout your body in this astounding tribute to Homer’s epic. Don’t miss out!

Get your tickets to Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria!

théâtre du jeu de paume

Iphigénie en Aulide - Iphigénie en Tauride

(French with English & French surtitles // July 5th, 8th, and 11th, 2024)

Christoph Willibald Gluck is a revered figure in the operatic canon. Known for scintillating scores and lavish librettos, his works have proved to be timeless favourites of operatic fanatics across the globe. That’s why this year at the Festival d’Art Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence, not just one but two of his beloved operatic works will be commemorated in a dual-performance at the Grand Théatre de Provence - namely, Iphigénie en Aulide and the corresponding continuation Iphigénie en Tauride.

Iphigénie en Aulide sets up Gluck’s interpretation of the classic Greek tragedy, wherein the titular princess Iphigénie, initially sacrificed to appease the gods, graciously accepts her fate and subsequently assumes the role of the heroine. Gluck’s sensual score sublimates the epic highs and lows of the drama that ensues through electrifying harmonies and expressive arias, accompanying Iphigénies transformation from cowering damsel to paragon of fortitude. In the second opera Iphigénie en Tauride, her story continues as her power grows and she takes on the role of executioner, sacrificing strangers in her rage. A veritable exploration of the changeable nature of human condition, the subjectivity of morality, and the psychological complexity of an afflicted victim.

The talents of staging design extraordinaire Dmitri Tcherniakov are called upon for these enchanting pieces, with extraordinary conductor Emmanuelle Haïm at the helm of the musical conduction. American soprano Corinne Winters assumes the role of the titular Iphigénie, Véronique Gens as Clytemnestre, Alasdai Kent as Achilles, Florian Sempey as Orestes, and Stanislas de Barbeyrac as Pylade in this coalescence of immaculate contemporary talent. The stage of the Grand Théatre de Provence will truly be graced by greatness this summer…and you’re invited to watch!

Get your tickets to Iphigénie en Aulide - Iphigénie en Tauride !


If any of these spectacular operas sound intriguing to you, you can find more information for purchasing tickets on our website. For a more luxurious experience, opt for the opulent dinner and a show package, which includes a special welcome, an apéritif, and a presentation by one of the Aix-en-Provence Festival’s dramaturgs, all before you even enjoy your beautifully crafted dinner!

See all shows playing at the festival!

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