In the Hall of Mirrors

Somehow I always manage to go to places at just the wrong time for musical experiences – you’d think as a musical traveller I’d know better. Whether it’s off-season in Vienna or Versailles, I always manage to go when the music stops. It’s like I’m really bad at international musical chairs.

IMG_4745I visited Versailles on a grey, mizzly November Tuesday. Sadly the only vaguely musical sounds I heard were the collapsing of umbrellas, squeaking of soggy shoes and clicking of cameras (cue discussion about what really consistutes music anyway)¬†as I walked through the hallways and rooms of the palace. Louis XIV’s palace has, though, echoed with music through the centuries. Some examples include:

  • Jean-Baptise Lully (he of stupid-conducting-related death fame) was Master of the King’s music, with the royal court at Versailles. He composed songs, ballets, and music for the Royal Chapel.
  • Little Mozart visited Versailles at the age of 7 as part of a European tour. He played for King Louis XV and the royal family.
  • Francois Couperin wrote religious music for the French royal court, which was performed in the Royal Chapel after its completion in 1710. He was also an organist at the Chapel.
  • The Royal Opera Theatre was opened in 1770 with a performance of Lully’s opera¬†Pers√©e.¬†

Royal Chapel

If you want to find out more about music at Versailles, there’s an edition of Radio 3’s Composer of the Week just for you!
Composer of the week – Music at Versailles

There are still many shows taking place at Versailles all year round – visit their website to find out what’s on.¬†I wish I could have visited at a time when there was music in the gardens and fountains.¬†(I suspect it might be slightly naff and over-the-top, but it’s sort of expected at a place like this!)

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I can’t say that the music of Lully and Couperin is really my tasse de th√©, but I did enjoy following their footsteps around the stunning palace. It’s also interesting to see the difference between an¬†English equivalent, Hampton Court, and this place that had been stripped during the French Revolution, and the difference between the ways the buildings have been treated¬†¬†depending how long they’ve been royal residencies, and what happen to the royals that resided in them. It was also nice to explore the small town that essentially popped-up around the palace. I had a fantastic croque monsieur from a small bakery on the way back to the train station. I have thought about that sandwich a lot since my visit.

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Versailles is pretty easy to get to from the centre of Paris – I took a train out from Austerlitz to¬†Versailles-Ch√Ęteau ‚Äď Rive Gauche, which took about an hour. Then there was a short walk through the town to get to the palace – around 15 mins. There are plenty of signs though so you shouldn’t get lost. And if you do get lost, there are plenty of places to get yourself a croissant. You know, to maintain strength.

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