“Ten euros in the booklet, with the CD-anniversary. It is for the volunteers.” At the entrance to the gallo-roman site of Sanxay, near Poitiers, three teenage girls are the first to arrive and the program of the first evening of the lyric. The show starts in two hours, but small hands are already on deck. 200 volunteers who, each year, work hard, set design to the costumes, through the restoration and the placement of the spectators, as Annick, that is the side bar. Her husband, Jean-Claude, mason retired, especially helps in the preparation of the scene. Not really a love of opera at the start, these two are, however, the journey since the first edition of the festival, twenty years ago.

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Like them, most have been embedded from the very first show, a Rigoletto given on August 10, 2000. Many were not aware of the lyrical art. Since then, they have learned to love it at the discretion of the performances, carefully chosen by the artistic director, Christophe Blugeon, among the most beautiful works of the opera repertoire. Two Traviata (2002 and 2012), two Nabucco (2003 and 2014), two Tosca (2004 and 2018) but also The Magic Flute (2017), and Madame Butterfly (2013).

Because the vocation of Sanxay is also there: import the lyrical art in Poitou, which is one of the few regions in France not to have opera, and to introduce the book to a rural population that does not have the opportunity nor the means to run the “big scenes”. 19 euro for the ticket to sit down in the grass to 87 euros for the orchestra in the centre, Sanxay offers places three to four times less expensive than the prices charged in other festivals in france.

The opera house at la bonne franquette

Result, entire families have been Nights lyric an unmistakable appointment of their summer. Two hours in advance, they can be found in the process of a picnic on the vast lawns of the site. Here, a couple opening a bottle of white just out of the cooler. There, a small local craftsman sells the block to the beer. Sanxay, this is the opera, yes, but at la bonne franquette. A single concern that disturbs this table, more bucolic: the wind, to 20 hours, begins to rise. The nights are cool in Vienna, even in the month of August. Warned, some have made the journey with their blankets. The other will still be able to buy a plaid with the effigy of the festival.

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From the first minutes of the show, the tone is set. Volunteer does not mean amateur and Sanxay does not have to blush in the face of his two seniors in the register of the operatic performance in the open air, the Chorégies of Orange and the festival of Aix-en-Provence. The decorations are splendid, as are the costumes. And what about the talent of the orchestra and the soloists? Russian soprano Elena Guseva, who has made his classes at the Vienna state Opera, portrays an Aida to flower of skin, torn between his homeland and his love for the enemy, the Egyptian Radames. But the preference almost her rival, the princess of Egypt Amneris, played by Olesya Petrova, devilishly charismatic. The passages with the chorus are particularly impressive, as this point in time where the High Priestess (Sophie-Marin Degor) implores the goddess Ptah to save his army. The public is conquered, no doubt about it. The bravos and enthusiastic applause, and feet beat the rhythm.

But Christopher Blugeon, the soul of the festival for the past twenty years, is not the type to rest on his laurels. His mind is already on next summer. For 2020, he begins to dream of a Barber of Seville poitevin. “We’re not going to replay indefinitely Aida “, lance-t-it to some of the skeptics. After this evening, he would willingly give wrong.

Aïda, with a great lyrical Sanxay, 10, 12 and 14 August 2019 21: 30. 4, route de Poitiers 86600, Sanxay. From 19 euros. Reservations: +33 (0)5 49 44 95 38 or www.operasanxay.fr David Tavan