Great performers and historic sites together can produce sublime
synergies, as artists and settings enhance each other to create
France,with hundreds of historic sites and a rich musical
history, excels in this kind of spectacle. Below is a sampling. In
some cases, exact dates and times have not been set. Agents can
call the French Government Tourist Office as the dates approach for
The Grand Musical Waters of Versailles, a spectacle in which
music is programmed to accompany the water display of some 50
fountains and pools, creating a harmony all their own, enlivens
palace visits from May 3 to Oct. 11. In July and September,
historical tableaux are played out at the Bassin de Neptune.
For three weeks in May, music resonates through Evian during the
annual International Classical and Chamber Music Festival. Between
concerts, clients can stroll the boulevards and promenades of this
opulent Belle Epoque spa or listen to the sound of roulette wheels
in the casino.
Strasbourg's International Music Festival in June and July
spreads performances among the Palace of Music, the pink sandstone
Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame (once the tallest structure in
Europe) and other churches.
From mid-June to late July, the Nuits de Fourviere, featuring
theater and music, takes place in the ancient Roman theaters of
Lyon. The larger of the two theaters is the oldest in France, no
surprise considering that Lugdunum (today's Lyon) was once the
capital of Gaul.
Paris' Fete de la Musique celebrates all types of music with
venues spread throughout the city. Place de la Republique, Place de
la Bastille, Hotel des Invalides and La Villette are but some of
the spots that will host the June 21 event.
Between June 21 and Aug. 22, Saison Musicale, a festival of
chamber music, will be held in the ruins of a Romanesque abbey in
the southeastern village of St. Guilhem le Desert. New York's
Cloisters is a replica of this abbey and even includes some of its
At Reims, the 120 concerts of the Flaneries Musicales d'Ete can
be heard in courtyards, gardens and such noted monuments as the
Cathedral of Notre Dame, St. Remi Basilica and the Palais de Tau.
Performances take place from June 26 to Aug. 23.
A festival of classical, sacred and medieval music will be held
during July and August in the intact 12th-century Cistercian Abbey
at Noirlac. Clients can expand their sightseeing to include nearby
Bourges, where the Cathedral of St. Etienne boasts stained glass
windows frequently compared to those of Chartres.
From July through September, the Festival Musique en l'Ile
offers classical music, oratorios and chamber music in three of
Paris' most renowned churches: St. Chapelle, St. Germain des Pres
and Eglise St. Louis en l'Ile.
During the first and second weeks of July, the International
Celtic Harp Festival will take place in Dinan, a walled town
considered one of the loveliest in Brittany. When not listening to
music, clients can explore Dinan's ramparts, castle and cobbled
One of Europe's most famous international festivals of music and
opera, the International Festival of Lyric Art and Music, held
since 1948, is scheduled for July 3 to 31 at Aix en Provence. The
works of Mozart, Purcell, Britten, Monteverdi and Bartok will be
among those presented in the outdoor courtyard of the archbishop's
Beaune's International Festival of Baroque Music, from July 3 to
Aug. 2, will be staged in the 15th-century Hospices de Beaune, an
example of Renaissance architecture.
From July 5 to Sept. 6, the International Organ Festival will
present concerts each Sunday afternoon at the cathedral of
Chartres. A masterpiece of medieval architecture, the cathedral is
most known for its 12th- and 13th-century stained glass which gave
rise to the term "Chartres blue."
In Provence, the Roman amphitheater at Orange, one of the
best-preserved such structures in the world, will be the scene for
music and opera between mid-July and early August. The stage is
backed by a monumental wall complete with a statue of Augustus
Nuits Musicales du Suquet will offer chamber music in Cannes'
historic district (Suquet) overlooking the old port. Performances
are scheduled from July 20 to 30.
For 10 days in late August, the Auvergne hill village of La
Chaise Dieu rewards clients with visual as well as auditory treats.
Besides attending the music festival, they might inspect the danse
macabre frescoes of the St. Robert church.
Sound and light
Back in 1952, the concept of son et lumiere (sound and light shows)
was born at the Loire Valley's Chateau de Chambord. Although such
spectacles are now presented at attractions from Mexico's Mayan
ruins to the pyramids of Egypt, the Loire still boasts some of the
Today's productions use lasers, fireworks and medieval jousts
along with hundreds of costumed performers. Depending on the venue,
clients can experience historical pageants and long-ago tales in
chateau courtyards and gardens or actively follow changing scenes
around the grounds.
The chateaux of Amboise, Azay le Rideau, Blois, Chenonceau,
Cheverny, Le Lude, Le Puy du Fou, Loches, Meung sur Loire and
Valencay host some of the most spectacular programs. Most
performances take place from mid-May through early September and
last one to two hours. Specific dates and times should be
Other venues for sound and light shows include Mont St. Michel,
from April 17 to Sept. 26, where performers move along the abbey's
stairways and corridors.
Between July and mid-September, the facade and nave of Reims
Cathedral, the coronation site for 26 French kings, serve as the
setting for sound and light pageants on Friday and Saturday
Following are telephone numbers for sound and light venues
mentioned in this guide:
Le Lude: 33-2-43-94-62-20
Le Puy-du-Fou: 33-2-51-64-11-11
Mont St. Michel: 33-2-33-60-14-14
Reims: 33-3-26-77-45-25 (tourist office)