Daniel Benoin’s recent departure from the Théâtre National de Nice was much mourned…but look no further than Antibes to find him again.
In 2013, the Théâtre National de Nice, no stranger to flamboyant on-stage productions, witnessed a drama unfold behind the curtains. Its Artistic Director Daniel Benoin who had been at the helm for 12 years suddenly found himself in a tug of war over his future after reaching his term limits.
Deputy Mayor Christian Estrosi wished to keep the popular TNN figurehead in place but eventually had to bow to the French Ministry of Culture which appointed Irina Brook to take over the reins at the TNN in January 2014.
As good fortune would have it though, Antibes had just built its own theatre, the first one in town actually, with a capacity of 1,400 seats in two salles. And Daniel had been involved as an adviser in its development from the beginning, even during the construction phase, using the opportunity to influence every step of the way with his artistic savoir-faire and vision. “An artist absolutely has to say what he wants, and how it should be done,” Daniel tells us. His appointment as Artistic Director was the natural choice, and after the anthéa’s opening on April 6, 2013, he wore two hats for a while, in Nice and Antibes.
To build a program from scratch is a rare chance, and the one that Daniel compiled ex nihilo was nothing short of stunning. Some of the big brand names of the 2013/2014 season include Jean-Louis Trintignant, Cécile de France, Francis Huster, Julia Migenes, Gad Elmaleh, and even Woody Allen & The New Orleans Jazz Band (pictured above), to name but a few.
This eclectic mix is representative of Daniel Benoin’s artistic vision. He wants a “living stage” – a theater which offers the entire spectrum from plays to dance, concerts, opera, comedy, musicals, acrobats, and shows. Artists of all genres and from many different countries will find a warm welcome on this stage.
Under Daniel Benoin’s leadership, the anthéa was off to a fantastic start, and the Antibois flocked to their beautiful new theater in droves: in its first year alone, it received over 70,000 visitors and 5,500 season ticket holders.
In contrast to the TNN which has a cultural mission to produce, and places an emphasis on plays, amounting to about 80% of its programming, the anthéa is currently mostly still co-producing, although the 2014/15 season will mark the beginning of greater artistic initiative. “It is important to differentiate ourselves from Nice”, Daniel stresses. There is no doubt he will.
The March 2014 program alone features three amazing spectacles: Timbré, a stunning artistic ice skating show (11th, 15th, 22nd), the multifaceted Ayo in concert (22nd), and the Australian Dance Theatre with its breathtaking dialogue of dance and video (28th and 29th.)
.All in all, Daniel Benoin is pleased with the way his transition from Nice to Antibes worked out. “Everything went very, very smoothly.” He knows he is much loved and missed in Nice. After all, he is one of the finest artistic directors in France, with a pedigree and career that very few can match, and his cultural influence on the Niçois public over his 12 year tenure was enormous. But the TNN is in good hands with Irina Brook, he says, and he is looking forward to carrying on his mission in Antibes.
Out of sight he may be, but certainly not out of mind. The Nice audience is grateful for Daniel’s work, and Antibes has much to look forward to. And what other region in France is blessed with two such outstanding theaters and artistic directors like Daniel Benoin and Irina Brook? Good times ahead indeed for all friends of Thespis on the Côte d’Azur.
Anthéa (Antipolis Théâtre d’Antibes)
260, ave. Jules Grec
Tel: 04 83 76 13 13
Lead image © D.R.; close-up images of anthéa and Woody Allen photo © Philip Ducap Fine Art Photography; anthéa by evening photo © Milène Servelle