The December calendar is fairly bursting with fabulous performances – so here’s a guide to some of the highlights to help you with your choices.
Monte-Carlo Opera presents a special one-night only Opera Gala featuring three of the most beautiful voices on the international stage – Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu, Mexican tenor Ramón Vargas and French baritone Ludovic Tezier. This benefit performance is to be held in memory of Eduardo, the son of Ramón Vargas, who tragically passed away at the age of six. Proceeds from the concert will go to a foundation which was created in Eduardo’s memory, to help the development of young handicapped children in some of the most marginalized areas of Mexico.
The Monte-Carlo Opera Chorus (director Stefano Visconti) and the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra are led by the Orchestra’s music director Philippe Auguin, and the Opera Gala takes place on 18th December at 20h00 at the Auditorium Rainier III. Tickets may be reserved online.
In the world of ballet, December is Nutcracker season, and Monte-Carlo Ballet presents Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Casse-Noisette Compagnie, his own interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s traditional Christmas ballet. It’s been described by Paris Match as “An explosive show!” and by Figaro Magazine as “Maillot at his best”. A highlight of this year’s production is the presence of two stars of the Bolshoi Ballet – Olga Smirnova and Artem Ovcharenko  – who appear with dancers of the Monte-Carlo Ballet and students of the Princess Grace Academy.
The Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Nicolas Brochot and the performances take place at the Grimaldi Forum from 29th to 31st December, and 2nd to 4th January.
Those who enjoy the intimacy of the Monte-Carlo Ballet’s Imprévus sessions will no doubt be interested in the introduction of Les Inattendus – an opportunity to attend a dress rehearsal in which Jean-Christophe Maillot puts the final touches to his Casse-Noisette Compagnie. Three of these rehearsals will be open to the public, and they take place at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo from 11th to 13th December.
This festive season, there’s a wonderful opportunity for ballet lovers the world over to see a performance by the Monte-Carlo Ballet. To celebrate the Company’s 30th anniversary, the performance of Casse-Noisette Compagnie on 30th December is being broadcast live to cinemas around the world. Information on your nearest screening isn’t yet available, but keep an eye on the Company’s website.
The Monte-Carlo Ballet also hosts a visit from the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch this month. The Company presents Vollmond (Full Moon) a work choreographed by Bausch, which premiered in 2006. There is no narrative to this work, but we do know that humour plays a central role, and the last occasion on which it was presented on the Riviera, the dancers performed against a backdrop of what’s described as “huge boulders and an impressive volume of water”! Vollmond will be presented at the Grimaldi Forum from 18th to 20th December.
Tickets for all Monte-Carlo Ballet performances may be reserved at the Grimaldi Forum, the Atrium of the Monte-Carlo Casino, or online.
In another treat for Riviera lovers of ballet, Monte-Carlo Ballet has scheduled a one-off screening of the 1948 Powell-Pressburger film, The Red Shoes. This historic gem – which will surely never lose its allure – stars Moira Shearer as a young dancer torn between her ambition to become a prima ballerina and her love for a composer (played by Marius Goring). The film also stars Anton Walbrook and features Léonide Massine, Robert Helpmann and Ludmilla Tchérina.
The Red Shoes will be shown at the Salle Camille Blanc in the Grimaldi Forum, on 20th December at 11h00. Admission is free, subject to reservation.
The 2015 Russia in Monaco festival draws to a close in December, and in the final concert of this wonderful celebration of Russian culture, Gianluigi Gelmetti leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic in a programme celebrating the 175th anniversary of the birth of Tchaikovsky. Russian pianist Denis Matsuev plays Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous Piano Concerto No 1, and the program also features the Russian master’s Symphony No 6. Attendance at the concert, which takes place in the Salle Garnier on 17th December, is by invitation only, and for further information, visit the Year of Russia in Monaco site.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Edith Piaf, and in celebration of the star who came to be regarded as the country’s national chanteuse, Piaf! Le Spectacle is making a return visit to Nice for just two performances, during its world tour, courtesy of Directo Productions. Starring Anne Carrere, the show traces the career of Edit Piaf – from its origins on the streets of Montmartre – against a backdrop of images reflecting the Piaf years.
Piaf! Le Spectacle takes place at the Opéra de Nice on 6th December, at 14h30 and 18h30. Tickets can be reserved online or you might prefer to enter our competition to be in with a chance to win a pair of tickets to the show.
Ballet Nice Méditerranée has a firm favourite lined up for its Christmas production this year – the enchanting story of Coppélia, the life-size doll who apparently comes to life to foil the amorous curiosity of Swanhilda’s errant fiancé, Franz. Set to Léo Delibes’ lovely score, this staging of Arthur Saint-Léon’s comic ballet has been choreographed by the Company’s Artistic Director, Éric Vu-An, after Saint-Léon. It’s a colourful, fun-filled work, featuring some spirited character dancing from Central Europe, and fascinating variations as the mechanical dolls, created by Dr Coppelius, spring into action when wound up.
With the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Garforth, the Ballet Nice production of Coppélia opens on 18th December at the Nice Opera, and runs until 31st December. For tickets and further information, visit the Opéra de Nice website.
And finally to Cannes, for a New Year’s Eve performance by the Spanish National Ballet. Amongst Spain’s most important cultural ambassadors to the world, the Company – under its multi-award-winning director Antonio Najarro [http://balletnacional.mcu.es/index.php/en/compania/director] – has a repertoire which balances the Spanish traditions of bolero and flamenco with those of classical ballet and works by young contemporary choreographers.
The New Year’s Eve programme comprises Alberto Lorca’s 1984 masterpiece, Ritmos; Viva Navarra by Victoria Eugenia – a former director of the Company; Rafael Aguilar’s Bolero, set to one of Ravel’s best-known compositions; and Alento, one of Antonio Najarro’s most recent creations.
The Spanish National Ballet performs in the Grand Auditorium of the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès in Cannes on 31st December. Tickets can be reserved online.
Lead image © Sunny studio