Bogotá welcomes La Belle Époque with VI International Classic Music Festival

Recently released picture of Ute Lemper by Guido Harari.

The Belle Epoque was as beautiful a time in human history as it was tragic. A cataclysmic final verse, brush stroke and incantation before the onslaught of World War One. As the 19th-Century drew to a close, Auguste Renoir’s Moulin de la Galette, or Gabriel Fauré’s hauntingly prophetic Requiem, are two works that immortalize this fleeting era as the timeless Belle Epoque.

The Belle Epoque is the theme of the VI International Classic Music Festival of Bogotá, a landmark cultural event that will be inaugurated on April 5, 2023, at Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo. The inaugural concert brings to the stage one of the world’s great vocalists Ute Lemper. With her extensive repertoire of Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich, the German singer/songwriter will deliver an evening of reflection, a sense of history, and music that connects two great European capitals: Paris and Berlin.

This festival, and the Teatro Mayor’s cultural series Bogotá es Francia, will showcase works by the late 19th Century, and Early 20th Century composers, Claude Debussy, Cécile Chaminade, Lili Boulanger, César Franck, Camille Saint-Saëns, Gabriel Fauré and Maurice Ravel. Among the guest orchestras invited to perform in La Belle Époque is the Orchestre Des Champs-Élysées, known for their period instrument interpretations and directed by the young Briton Gabriella Teychenné.

The Orchestre will be accompanied on stage by the Santa Cecilia Choral Society. With three performances on April 6,7 and 8 – this Paris-based orchestra will also feature Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin and Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin.

Closer to home, the Orquestra Filarmónica de Medellín will also give two concerts – April 7 and 8 – in the Delia Zapata Salon and main stage at Teatro Mayor. The Grammy-award nominated FILARMED perform under the baton of David Greilsammer and the concerts will feature Colombian cellist Santiago Cañón, and French pianist Alexandre Tharaud. The Israeli conductor has worked with the BBC Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Metropolitan Orchestra of Tokyo and Hong Kong Philharmonic, among others. The repertoire will include Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird and Debussy’s iconic Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.

Bogotá’s Nueva Filarmonía and musical director Ricardo Jaramillo give their concert on April 8. Nueva Filarmonía won the 2019 Grammy in the category of Best Classical Album for “Regreso,” and work that tributes Colombian composer Samuel Torres. The Orchestra Filarmónica de Bogotá (OFB) and conductor Joachim Gustafsson will also headline at the festival on April 7.

The maestros Manuel López-Gómez (Venezuela) of the OFB’s Youth Orchestra, Adrián Chamorro (Colombia) of the National Youth Philharmonic, Ricardo Jaramillo (Colombia) of Nueva Filarmonía, and Luis Guillermo Vicaría (Colombia) of the Javeriana Symphony are the Latin Americans in charge of celebrating the musical traditions of La Belle Époque, but adding a unique local touch.

Maurice Ravel’s one-movement “Bolero” will have three performances at Teatro Colón. Completed in 1928 before the French composer with Basques roots retired due to illness, Léo Warynski (France) will interpret this iconic work with a choreography by the Györ Ballet of Hungary. Warynski, director of the Ensemble Multilatérale and vocal ensemble Les Métaboles, will conduct the National Symphony of Colombia.

Among the many highlights of this four-day is a recital by Colombia’s acclaimed operatic dame, soprano Betty Garcés. Garcés will be joined on stage by the German pianist Daniel Heide and Colombian flutist Gaspar Hoyos. The recital takes place on Thursday (April 6) at Teatro Colsubsido includes works by Ernest Chausson, Jules Massenet, Henri Duparc, Erik Satie, Kurt Weill, Claude Debussy and André Caplet.

On the same Thursday, the Youth Philharmonic of Colombia will play Bizet’s Carmen Suite No.1; Édouard Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole, among other compositions. This concert takes place at Teatro Mayor.

Teatro Colsubsidio Roberto Arias Pérez is also the venue for “Parisian Impressions” with the Van Kuijk Quartet (France). The performance will include Gabriel Fauré’s Opus 7 (Après un rêve); and lesser-known works by Debussy and Ravel.

The district’s Planetario de Bogotá (Planetarium) is also part of the festival’s music constellation and will host on Thursday, April 6, Austrian harpist Elisabeth Plank. Many paid and free concerts will be held at Teatro Ensueño, in public libraries (El Tunal, El Tintal, Virgilio Barco), as well as the Teresa Cuervo Borda auditorium and Fabio Lozano auditorium.

The French organist and teacher Gabriel Fauré is the protagonist for the final curtain call of La Belle Époque, and his most serene Requiem will be performed by the Orchestre des Champs-Elysées. Vocalists Betty Garcés (soprano), American baritone John Chest, and conductor Gabriella Teychenne will close a festival of magnificent music. With 16 venues and slate of free concerts, La Belle Époque will be remembered by audiences like the era it tributes. A time when music defied convention, and beauty was at the heart of the modern construct.

For the full program and line-up of artists visit the official website of the festival: