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Swimmers | Cylists | Toreador

Aix-en-Provence, France, Summer 2003

Aix-en-Provence has a month long music festival called ”Music Dans La Rue”, or for the non-French speakers, “Music in the Streets.” The title is a complete and accurate description of the festival.

Music happened all the time in Aix, so when my French mom told me there was a special concert that night, I was skepical. She pushed my roommate, Stacy, and I to go, so we walked to the center square and waited.

Photograph of a drummer during a street performance of the opera Carmen At 6:00 a five piece brass band entered the square. The crowd fell silent. The conductor lifted his arms and began the most crashing, vibrant performance of the opening of “Carmen” I’d ever heard. They continued for ten minutes, and then closed the piece to loud applause. The conductor shouted something in French, and the crowd began to walk. Stacy and I, unsure of what was going on, followed. We walked to a large fountain that had been dry all summer. Suddenly the band appeared and jumped into the fountain basin. A young woman and man appeared, and the ensemble broke into a raucous rendition of “Toreador.” The crowd sang along and danced, but the soprano held her own. Stacy and I realized we were in the middle of a progressive opera. We loved it.

In the midst of all this, I heard the first strains of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.” Someone in a nearby apartment was blaring the opera from a stereo. Bizet and Puccini were not meant to be listened to at the same time. The crowd became agitated, the concert continued, and Stacy and I bailed before things got ugly.

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