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The stage is set…

Open air music festivals around France this summer

When on holiday in rural France and relaxed and receptive to local experiences, what better than to spend an evening listening to some world class classical music? And, to go one better, take your seat in a Roman amphitheatre or hear the music echoing round the battlements of a medieval floodlit castle?

Summer in France sees a huge number of festivals, not just musically based of course. With warm, balmy evenings it’s a real treat to sit in some historic building gazing at the timeless surroundings and the swallows swooping as the sun sets and the lights come on.   

The performances might range from classical to jazz to rock, performed by international artists or local unknowns, but it’s always a wonderful ambiance being under the stars.

Many small towns put on concerts and mini festivals that are well worth looking out for (advance publicity is often limited, especially outside the immediate locality). They are generally exceptionally enjoyable with receptive audiences, a glass of wine and a chance to mingle and feel part of a community, perhaps even chat to performers. 

On a Belle France holiday you are immersed in the countryside you are walking or cycling through. As you travel, under your own steam, you get a real sense of being part of that landscape and its culture, so a musical event at the end of the day can be a powerful reminder of your temporary membership of that community. So sit back, relax and enjoy the show and ponder your next day’s travels.

Let there be music

Here’s the Belle France short list of a few of this summer’s attention grabbing music festivals that tickle our fancy and catch our ear…

Les Nuits de Fourvière, LyonJune/July

An annual festival since 1946, this combines theatre, music, dance and opera in a glorious melange of creativity, all held in the Gallo-Roman theatres of Fourvière for over 130,000 spectators.

Explore the area: Mâcon Prestige à Pied

Avignon Festival, Avignon6-26 July

July sees the beautiful city of Avignon becoming a giant, open air theatre with a varied programme of theatre, music and dance.

Explore the area: Provence Wine Trails  |  Provence Prestige en Vélo  |  Luxury Walking in the Luberon  |  Provence Prestige à Pied  |  Provençal Cycling

Carcassonne Festival, CarcassonneJuly

A festival of opera, theatre and music, this high profile event draws over 250,000 with a heady mix of superb technology, stunning settings and a range of performances (many free). Past international headliners have included Elton John, Sting and Johnny Halliday.

Explore the area: Canal du Midi  |  Canal du Midi Cruise

Saint-Céré Festival, Lot 28 July-13 August

A month of alternating operatic performances, this is a springboard for young singers who cut their teeth in the imposing settings of major historic castles and historic buildings.

Explore the area: Dordogne Prestige à Pied  |  Dordogne Prestige en Vélo

Menton Music Festival, Menton, Côte d’AzurAugust

A wonderful blend of top classical music with a magical setting on the French Riviera. The outdoor stage is set on the steps in front of the Basilica of St Michael the Archangel – a truly dramatic setting for of the world’s most illustrious classical performers.

Explore the area: Mountains to Med

Les Flaneries Musicales, Reims22 June-12 July

A classical music festival that also features jazz and world music, all bringing colour and vibrancy to the city with many free shows at venues such as the Opera, Palace of Tau, the St Remi Basilica and even Reims station. Free shuttles transfer music aficionados around the city between concerts and the festival ends with a vast picnic concert.

Explore the area: Luxury Sparkling Champagne Walk

Festival La Chaise Dieu, AuvergneAugust

In the heart of the Livradois-Forez regional park, this festival annually brings to life the stark beauty of the medieval abbey at La Chaise Dieu. Verdi’s Requiem, performed in the abbey on 19th August, promises to be a spine-tingling event.

Explore the area: Valleys of the Rugged South  |  Volcanoes of the Auvergne  |  Ardèche Adventures  |  Stevenson Trail 1 & 2  |  Compostela

Pablo Casals Festival, Languedoc-RoussillonJuly-August

Named after the illustrious cellist, this festival makes use of numerous ancient churches, as well as unusual venues like the Canalettes caves at Corneilla-de-Conflent. Wonderful opportunities to hear musical masterpieces of Bach, Schubert and Mozart in dramatic venues across the eastern Pyrenees region.

Explore the area: Canal du Midi Prestige  |  Cathar Castles Stage 1  |  Cathar Castles Stage 2