On Saturday 19 September, Italian prima donna Cecilia Bartoli performed an exceptional open-air concert at the opening ceremony for Monaco’s brand-new Place du Casino. She was accompanied, of course, by the Les Musiciens du Prince-Monaco period instrument ensemble, for which she has been the Artistic Director since 2016. Following an announcement on the handover of duties, the occasion was also an opportunity for the spirited mezzo-soprano to honour her friendship with the Director of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, Jean-Louis Grinda, who she will be taking over from on 1 January 2023. We caught up with her to ask her three questions.
What did being the Artistic Director of a concert like this mean for you?
Cecilia Bartoli: In 1879, Sarah Bernhardt performed the opening show for the Casino de Monte-Carlo and its incredible Salle Garnier, and she remains one of the greatest names in theatre even today. Now, in 2020, I have the enormous privilege of performing at the cultural unveiling of the new Place du Casino – and I couldn’t be happier! I hope the show we have put together will convey to onlookers the celebratory feel that the unveiling of a public space should have.
What does singing with an orchestra of period instruments, and reconnecting with the musical traditions of the royal, princely and imperial courts of 17th- and 18th-century Europe involve – not only vocally, but emotionally?
C.B: Our performances are both traditional and innovative: we delve into the scores and sounds of these period instruments with the greatest of respect for them, and are painstaking in our research. We try to understand the composer’s intentions, and recreate the sound they had in mind as they were writing their music. But our goal is totally contemporary! During our concerts, we want to appeal to modern-day audiences, make them feel something, and draw them into the immense and captivating power that this music has over our souls!
What about singing in Monaco’s new Place du Casino, and more generally in Monaco itself?
C.B: It’s impossible to think of Monte-Carlo without the Casino de Monaco and the Opera, the Place du Casino and the Hôtel de Paris springing to mind – it’s a unique space and truly an architectural jewel. It will be an extraordinary moment, both for me and the orchestra, to take to the stage outside of the Opera and bring our work, which usually we share in the intimacy of the Salle Garnier, to the open air. I am delighted to have the opportunity to reach an audience who may not usually choose to go to classical music concerts or the opera: we want this new public space to be one we celebrate together!
The New Place du Casino
After the resurrection of the Jardins des Boulingrins, now it’s the turn of the Place du Casino to reveal its new surroundings. In a delicate marriage of tradition and modernity, conceived and designed by landscape architect Michel Desvigne, the 19th-century charm of the Principality’s beating heart is once again being restored, and its horizons widened. A stroll becomes irresistible, taking you on a fascinating journey through history, the Belle-Epoque splendour of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, Café de Paris Monte-Carlo and Casino Monte-Carlo façades, and the more contemporary lines of the new One Monte-Carlo district. Endless exotic foliage adds a touch of evergreen everywhere you look.