Since its inception, the resort has sought to offer gamers innovative entertainment options. Over the years, its partnership with the arts has transformed it into an organiser of major cultural events.
In a single week, I was able to talk about literature with the most prominent authors, gallantry with the Queen of the salons and theatres, politics with statesmen, art with the most renowned artists, and finance... with Monsieur Blanc, enthused Lord Henry Brougham in 1865, barely a year after the inauguration of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo. Indeed, it was under the impetus of Prince Charles III of Monaco, together with the founder of the Société des Bains de Mer and his wife, Marie Blanc, that the Principality not only built a casino, which saw gamers from around the world flock to its tables after it opened in 1863, but also an opera house, which under director Raoul Gunsbourg would welcome actress Sarah Bernhardt, Italian tenor Enrico Caruso and Russian singer Feodor Chaliapin, along with composers in residence such as Massenet, Saint-Saëns and Bizet. The Opéra de Monte-Carlo would quickly become a favourite venue for Sergei Diaghilev’s ballet company : the famous Ballets Russes, who made dance a total art form with posters and sets designed by the likes of Jean Cocteau, Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Dufy and Miro.
Picture : 1896, the Orchestre du Nouveau Cercle des Étrangers, predecessor of the Orchestre Philharmonique.
Of course, the arts are celebrated in all of the resort’s hotels. While the grand lobby of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo was a location for the film Monte-Carlo Baby – in which Colette was struck by the talent of Audrey Hepburn – the Monte-Carlo Beach, which opened in 1928, attracted major stars from the world of the arts, music and culture, including Marlene Dietrich and Gloria Swanson, who were regular guests. At the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo, the ceiling of the Salle Belle Epoque – decorated by painter Gabriel Ferrier – is directly inspired by works by Boucher and Fragonard, while the glass roof of the Jardin d’Hiver was designed by disciples of Gustave Eiffel. In addition to these luxury hotels, the group gradually built places completely dedicated to celebrating culture, for example the Palais des Beaux-Arts, a gem by architect Jules Touzet, which presented exhibitions of paintings, sculpture, film screenings and concerts in Place du Casino. Over the years this building began to show its age, and the Sporting d’Hiver would eventually be built in its place.
Picture: 1936, shooting the film “Le roman d’un tricheur” (Confessions of a Cheat) in the Casino de Monte-Carlo
In 1974, the inauguration of the Monte-Carlo Sporting Club featuring music hall star Joséphine Baker would mark the end of this era, since the galas, dinners and concerts would all gradually be transferred to the Sporting d’Eté on the artificial peninsula of Larvotto. In the early 2000s it would be renamed the Sporting Monte-Carlo. Home to the legendary Salle des Etoiles, the venue now brings together the world’s finest singers every summer for the Monte-Carlo Sporting Summer Festival, devised in 2006 by artistic director Jean-René Palacio, who also spearheaded the Monte-Carlo Jazz Festival at the Opéra Garnier de Monte-Carlo, featuring rare concerts such as the one given by Marcus Miller with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, Sonny Rollins, Diana Krall, Herbie Hancock and IAM. The resort’s locations are eminently cinematographic, and continue to inspire directors to this day.
Picture: 1910, Vaslav Nijinsky, principal dancer with the Ballets Russes, in “Les Orientales”
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