CULTURE

 

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The cultural climate of the Principality which had developed particularly rapidly in the seventeenth century with the encouragement of Prince Honoré III is one of the principal concerns of H.S.H. Prince Rainier III, following the example of Prince Pierre of Monaco who was the friend of the greatest writers, painters and composers of his time.

A department of the Government of the Principality, the Directorate of Cultural Affairs, whose head is Monsieur Rainier Rocchi, under the authority of the Department of the Interior, is responsible for promoting the cultural development of the Principality by, on one hand, providing facilities for all forms of prestigious cultural expression and, on the other, encouraging artistic creativity.

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THE GREAT CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS

The Prince Pierre Foundation

Officially established on 17th February 1966 by H.S.H. Prince Rainier III, in honor of his father Prince Pierre of Monaco, is today headed by H.S.H. Princess Caroline whose interest in the world of Letters and Arts is well known.

Its purpose is to encourage culture and progress in Letters and the Arts, in particular by the creation and awarding of prizes.

The Prince Pierre Foundation consists of three institutions :

  • the Grand Literary Prize, created in 1951 ;
  • the Prince Rainier III Prize for Musical Composition, founded in 1960 ;
  • the International Contemporary Art Prize, awarded for the first time in 1965 and organized by the Prince Pierre Foundation since 1983.

The Princess Grace Foundation

Established in 1964 at the behest of Princess Grace with the aim of undertaking more than the usual activities of charitable organizations, governs the Princess Grace Dance Academy directed by Madame Marika Besobrasova in the charming setting of the villa "Casa Mia".

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THE GREAT CULTURAL AMBASSADORS OF THE PRINCIPALITY

The Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra :

The first permanent orchestra, established in 1863, really came into its own with the opening of the Garnier Palace in 1879.

In 1953, it was called the "National Orchestra of the Monte Carlo Opera House" and became the "Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra" in 1979. With its 87 musicians, the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra is experienced in the interpretation of symphonic and lyrical works and in ballet music alike. It has been and still is conducted by the greatest guest conductors from Toscanini to Richard Strauss, Leonard Bernstein to Lorin Maazel, and by the famous official conductors such as Paul Paray, Louis Fremaux, Igor Markevitch and Lovro von Matacic and since 1980 by Lawrence Foster who will be succeeded by Gianluigi Gelmetti. The Orchestra has been awarded several Great Prizes for its recordings by France and other countries, among which are "The Golden Orpheus" and the "Great Prize of the Charles Cros Academy".

The Monte Carlo Ballet :

After founding the Academy which bears her name, Princess Grace wishes to revive an old tradition by inviting Balanchine, Serge Lifar and J.B. Cerrone, a Monégasque, who directed the "Harkness Ballet" and founded the "Houston Ballet".

Then, remembering her mother's wishes, Princess Caroline created the new Monte Carlo Ballet, the management of which she first entrusted to Ghislaine Thesmar and Pierre Lacotte. Today Jean-Marc Genestié is responsible for the Administrative Direction and Jean-Christophe Maillot is Choreographer Director. With enthusiasm and competence, they are striving together to raise the Company to the highest international level.

The Little Singers of Monaco :

They carry on a tradition from the reign of Prince Antoine I when an ensemble of children's voices sang the liturgies in the Palatine Chapel.

In 1973, the Government of the Principality asked Philippe Debat, the present Chapel Master, to carry out a musical mission in every country of the world with a choir of children's voices only. This juvenile choir of 26 boys was named "The Little Singers of Monaco" by Prince Rainier III.

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THE FAVORED PLACES OF CULTURE :

The Monte Carlo Opera :

Since 1892 the Monte Carlo Opera has occupied the Garnier Hall, named after its architect who also designed the Paris Opera House. A hall with a wonderful past, where many works were produced for the first time, such as Richard Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde", in the French version, in 1893 and Maurice Ravel's "The Child and the Spells" in 1925.

In all, forty-five lyrical works were first produced in Monte Carlo where the greatest artists came to sing in that golden age : Melba, Caruso, Chaliapin, Tito Schipa, Georges Thil and in our own day Ruggero Raimondi, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti.

It was also in the Garnier Hall that Monaco lived through the greatest hours in the history of the dance. Serge de Diaghilev, Nijinski, Serge Lifar and Ludmilla Tcherina are part of its history. They performed in décors, outstanding in themselves, created by Picasso, Derain and Dufy. "The Spectre of the Rose" was first produced in Monte Carlo in 1911 starring Nijinski.

Every year John Mordler, the Director of the Monte Carlo Opera House, presents a season of a rare quality consisting of four works, very often new productions. The productions of the Monte Carlo Opera House have always reached the greatest artistic heights, where 524 privileged people make up an audience in an extraordinary atmosphere and intimacy possessed by no other theater of international fame.

Here too, Jean-Marc Genestié and Jean-Christophe Maillot present in like manner the various performance of the Company which begin during the Christmas - New Year period, continue in March and April during the Springtime of the Arts festival, in mid-August and finish at the time of the National Holiday in November.

Between these fixed periods, the dancers go on tour abroad as before, to Japan, Italy, the United States and to Russia where their performances are warmly welcomed.

The Princess Grace Theater :

This, the former Beaux-Arts theater first opened in 1936, had its hours of glory with Sacha Guitry, Elvire Popesco, Edith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier. Princess Grace designed the whole of the decoration of this hall which was inaugurated on 17th December 1981 with Edwige Feuillre, Valentina Cortese and Dirk Bogarde. Run by a committee whose president is H.S.H. Princess Stéphanie, under the direction of Patrick Hourdequin, the theater is now extremely popular with a very varied program where everyone can find something to satisfy him.

The Fontvieille Area :

The site used to stage the International Circus Festival. Each year astonishing acts from the world of the circus are to be seen here. A circular structure made of canvas, the Fontvieille Area can, due its internal flexibility, house events of very different types. It provides 4000 seats in the round without any obstacle spoiling the spectator's range of vision apart from the four supporting masts.

In the show format, there is a huge 12 x 12 meters stage, 1.2 meters high, for all sorts of musical or variety shows.

In the "various events" format, it provides various options : organization of banquets, buffets, auction sales, conferences and television recordings.

The Congress Centre - Auditorium :

The flowering point of Art and Culture. With its terrace-roof of enameled lava created by Vasarely and the fitting in the Troparium of a Folon-designed carpet, "The Metamorphosis", woven at Aubusson in a single piece of 70 square meters, usable in many ways, the Congress Centre - Auditorium, facilitated the recording of symphony concerts, televised shows ... It is one of the finest halls in Europe where the Philharmonic Orchestra practices and gives its regular concerts from January to December with a move from mid-July to mid-August to the Court of Honor of the Prince's Palace. Capacity : 1100 people with an astonishing range of lighting and acoustics.

The Monégasque Government is preparing an extraordinary extension of its reception facilities with the Cultural and Exhibition Center on the site of the old Centenary Hall. This Center will include an exhibition hall of about 4,700 square meters in area, an auditorium with 1,200 places, equipped as a show hall with exits at the sides and an orchestra pit (13 meters below the level of the sea), a recording studio and seven meeting rooms of varying capacities with the most up to date technical equipment.

The Fort Antoine Theater :

Built between 1709 and 1713 - during the War of the Spanish Succession - on the headland of the Rock. Later, in the reign of Prince Charles III, it was surrounded by gardens.

Rebuilt in 1954 at the behest of Prince Rainier III, as it had been partly destroyed in 1944, the old bastion is today an open-air cultural and artistic venue with a central stage, gardens facing the sea and capacity for 350 spectators.

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THE GREAT DATES IN THE ANNUAL CULTURAL CALENDAR

The Monte Carlo International Circus Festival :

The first week of February. Established in 1974 by Prince Rainier III. Three evening performances, a matinee and a gala evening during which the Gold and Silver Clowns are awarded. The greatest circuses in the world are represented and take part in the competitions held here under the eyes of an international jury of professionals presided over by Prince Rainier III.

The Monte Carlo Television Festival :

The second week of February (its thirtieth anniversary was celebrated in 1990). Founded by Prince Rainier III, the major event for the world of television, recognized by the European Broadcasting Union, it functions on the basis of the great principles which have always guided it since its creation in 1961 and which have gained it worldwide repute among professionals. Presided over since 1st June 1988 by Prince Albert, the Heir to the Throne, the Festival has been able to pursue its objectives by presenting the most varied and complete facets of modern television : an international new images forum "IMAGINA", a competition and an international market for cinema, television and video products.

The Great Magic Prizes :

The second week in March. An event at the summit of the conjurer's art whose Organizing Committee is presided over by Princess Stéphanie, orchestrated as a music-hall revue. The Great Magic Prizes were established in 1985 : their aim is to make quality magic in its various forms better known and appreciated by way of a competition whose winners are awarded Gold and Silver Wands.

The Springtime of the Arts (April and May) :

Has, since its creation in 1984, proved to be a festival of international renown and one which has been a member since 1986 of the European Association of Music Festivals.

In accordance with the desire of its President, Princess Caroline of Monaco, it helps to make the Principality, during a period of nearly three weeks at Eastertide, a choice location for all those who combine a taste for art and music. Embracing dancing and all branches of music, including musical and operatic films, but also the theater, the Springtime of the Arts offers a selection of events of international fame and seeks to discover new talents which it tries to encourage by providing them with the opportunity to perform in Monte Carlo and to make their first recording. In addition, each edition of the Springtime of the Arts is marked by some original event, as, for example, the restaging in 1989 of Gluck's opera "Alceste" which had not been performed since the eighteenth century or the first performance since the eighteenth century in western Europe of the original version of Handel's baroque opera "Flavio".

The Bouquet Competition :

Organized by the Garden Club under the presidency of Princess Caroline takes place at the end of April in the Fontvieille Area. It has two juries, one made up of professional specialists in floral decoration, the other of well-known people with recognized artistic senses. The major award is the Grand Princess Grace of Monaco Prize.

The International Firework Festival (July and August) :

Organized since 1966 by the Municipal Festival Department, it has acquired a worthy international reputation.

The Concerts in the Prince's Palace (July and August) :

During these summer months, the Philharmonic Orchestra enjoys the pleasure of giving its concerts in the wonderful setting of the Court of Honor of the Palace which is specially adapted for these occasions.

The International Amateur Theater Festival (every four years in August) :

Created in 1957. The only official event recognized by the International Amateur Theater Association. Its last edition, in 1989, welcomed troupes from 27 countries plus, for the first time, a seminar of young critics, under the auspices of the International Theater Critics Association.

The Baroque Music Week (October)

Organized since 1983 by the Cultural Affairs Service in collaboration with the Oiseau Lyre ("Lyre Bird") Publishing Company. France Musique regularly records the concerts.

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THE CONSTANT FEATURES OF MONEGASQUE CULTURAL ACTIVITY

  • The opera season (January to March)
  • The productions of the Monte Carlo Ballet in November, December, March-April and August
  • The concerts of the Philharmonic Orchestra in March, April, July, August, October and December
  • The theater season from October to May.

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Published by GALE FORCE of Monaco