© Festival de Saint-Denis
© Festival de Saint-Denis

Just picture it: the Orchestre National de France and the Choir of Radio France at the culmination of the 2016 Saint-Denis Festival; those fortunate enough to have acquired tickets for the concert watch spellbound as the surge of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy rises to the imposing heights of the Basilica Saint-Denis. Are you getting goosebumps already?

The Saint-Denis Festival is a great excuse to cross the périphérique ring road and discover the northern Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis. The Cathedral here – in its own right an early masterpiece of Gothic art, with its royal necropolis and unique collection of more than 70 sculpted recumbent figures and tombs bathed in the gentle, coloured light from 12th- and 19th-century stained glass windows – provides a unique setting for the concerts.

Every year the Saint-Denis Festival welcomes the greatest artists on the international classical scene. And, every year, the spirit of the Festival becomes more inclusive. Nathalie Rappaport, Director of the Festival, says that today’s programmes offer “music that touches the hearts and awakens the spirits; music that is for travelling, not just music in the Basilica, or the Légion d’Honneur, but also in the neighbourhoods and the schools.”

Highlights of this 47th edition of the Festival include the opening concert of Mahler’sThird Symphony, and the great conductor Leonardo García Alarcón’s exploration the ‘bel canto’ in Donizetti’s Messa da Requiem, composed for the funeral of Vincenzo Bellini. Then it’s time to show off the pipe organ of the Cathedral – the first ever signed by the great organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll – at the hands of the Basilica’s head organist, Pierre Pincemaille.

There will also be music by 20th-century composers Karlheinz Stockhausen and Goran Bregovic, as well as Brahms, Bach and Mozart.

The Festival has been one of the main events in the cultural calendar since 1968 and is organised by the city of Saint-Denis under the auspices of the Île-de-France region, the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, Le Centre des Monuments Nationaux, and Radio France.

Tip: Book your tickets online at the festival website. Be aware that this is a popular festival and seats for the main concerts go fast!

Festival de Saint-Denis, May 26 to June 24, Basilique Cathédrale de Saint-Denis and Légion d’Honneur, rue de la Légion d’Donneur, Saint-Denis 93200. Métro: Basilique de Saint-Denis. Tel: +33 1 48 13 06 07. Email: reservations@festival-saint-denis.com

From France Today magazine

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Sylvia Edwards Davis is a writer and correspondent based in France with a focus on business and culture. A member of the France Media editorial team, Sylvia scans the cultural landscape to bring you the most relevant highlights on current events, art exhibitions, museums and festivals.

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