The Avignon Festival begins in joy, facing the virus

Avignon – The return of Serebrennikov, the opening of a new hall, the streets black with people: the Festival d’Avignon, which starts on Thursday, has reason to celebrate after two years of health crisis, even if it remains vigilant due to the epidemic rebound.

On the day before the start of the most famous theater festival in the world, the traditional parade took place on Wednesday for the first time since 2019.

“This is our first Avignon, we are very happy. We used the restrictions to stage our show!” says Christophe Gillis, musician and director who came from Belgium to present “Mozart versus Mozart”, a show of “musical humor”, to present” with members of his family.

The covid? “We’re not going to spoil the festival, we have to be on the stage and we’re all going to be very careful,” adds the performer, who is dressed in period costume during the parade.

In costumes and to the sound of drums, a dense crowd of artists crossed the streets of the “City of the Popes”, where many festival-goers had already arrived.

“We have the impression that we are returning a little to normality, we hope that it will be the Avignon of return,” confirms Olivier Schmidt, member of the troupe “Les Joyeux de la Couronne” presenting “A l’shadow”. of Oz”, a music show about the journey of Judy Garland.

It is one of the 1,500 shows of the “off”, the largest live performance “market” in France, which runs parallel to the official festival and has returned to its rich pre-pandemic offer. There is also the opening of a new hall, “La Scala Provence”.

On the side of the Festival d’Avignon, more international and specialized than the “Off”, we want to reassure you about health measures while calling for vigilance.

“The (current) risk of contagion is so great that we have made it compulsory for our teams to wear a mask because we cannot afford contagion,” Paul Rondin, deputy director of the festival, told AFP.

“There will be hundreds of thousands of people in Avignon for 20 days and we don’t want any fear-inducing measures, but we are telling people: + come to the festival and try to put on the mask in the halls,” he adds. Testing and vaccination centers will be set up in the city.

– A 13 hour epic –

The 2022 edition will also be the last for Olivier Py, who has directed the festival for nine years and will be succeeded by the Portuguese Tiago Rodrigues.

Since 2013 he has been inviting artists from different backgrounds, with a focus on the political side of theater in the broadest sense of the word.

Artists like Kirill Serebrennikov, whom he is inviting for the fourth time, under special circumstances: Although the idea was born in Ukraine before the war, the Russian filmmaker and director, who has been in European exile since spring, will open on Thursday with “The Schwarzer Chekhov’s Monk” in the main courtyard of the Papal Palace, the festival’s emblematic location. Serebrennikov recently made a notable appearance – and contested by Ukrainians – at the Cannes Film Festival, where he presented his film Tchaikovsky’s Wife.

As a sign of solidarity with Ukraine, Olivier Py performs on his farewell show “Miss Knife” with the Dakh Daughters, a punk group from Kyiv.

The festival this year also gives pride of place to the Middle East, with Iranian Amir Reza Koohestani, another regular, Arab poets and Lebanese artists.

“Anyone can find an experience to live with, whether it’s with Serebrennikov, (non-binary artist) Kae Tempest, Little Red Riding Hood (of collective Das Plateau) or Arabic women poets,” states Mr. Rondin.

And for fans of river shows – a festival tradition – playwright Simon Falguières offers ‘Le Nid de Cendres’, a 13-hour epic. With four breaks and two breaks.

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