The technical department is an important asset for the Festival and covers the entire range of its technical requirements. The Venelles site located seven kilometres from Aix-en-Provence houses the Festival's permanent creation and construction workshops. Throughout the year, the technical department, which also has its own design office, maintains close links with the artistic creation and production teams.
The Festival's technical department is responsible for organising all the technical, logistics and security aspects involved in implementing the programme. Twelve permanent staff assist the creative processes of several artistic teams, from birth of the project with the first meetings and presentation of mock-ups to final presentation of productions and concerts in the Festival's different venues, together with subsequent performances and tours. It has production and project management tools including set construction workshops, a costume production workshop and two rehearsal spaces, one of which mimics the actual dimensions of the Théâtre de l’Archevêché stage, installed in a 5,200 sq. m. industrial building in Venelles (belonging to the Departement des Bouches-du-Rhône), 1,000 sq. m. of rented storage premises in Gardanne, and a design office whose manager is responsible for the construction workshops and the design office, plus a CAD technician assisted during the season by two supplementary CAD technicians.
From 12 permanent staff to 300 technicians
Meetings between the technical department and the artistic creation teams, technical visits and meetings with co-producers require frequent travel across Europe and to China, Russia and North America, while the work of preparation, design studies, construction and production continues throughout the year.
Although the volume of staff is generally quite low in September and October, it rises gradually with the start-up of the sets workshop in November, the costume workshop in April and in May, when the teams take charge of the rehearsal and performance spaces, to more than 300 technicians employed in July when the Festival is in full operating phase.
The team is responsible for construction of sets, props and production of costumes for opera productions of each season, together with the necessary adaptations of other productions for the performances scheduled during tours.
Up to 30 cutters and dressmakers
Alongside two large costume production workshops staffed by some 30 cutters and dressmakers from mid-April to end June, there is a dyeing and decoration workshop, fitting rooms and a storage area. The number of costumes to be produced for each season varies depending on the works programmed and the staging concepts on which the costumiers work. For instance, apart from the number of soloists, the number of people recruited depends on whether an opera includes a chorus, dancers or extras and the number of costumes required for each performer.
The Festival d’Aix-en-Provence’s sets were the very first 100%–recyclable sets in the performing arts, and have been 100%–eco-designed since 2019. The Festival has also published the first “Guide Méthodologique de l’écoconception des décors” (“Methodological Guide to the Eco-Design of Sets”) (pdf, in French), created in partnership with Pôle Eco Design. Today, the Festival’s set construction workshops rely on eco-friendly raw materials (e.g., cork instead of Styrofoam, and paper pulp instead of plaster). In addition, set design must now include end-of-life constraints from the outset, such as the possibility of separating materials that are subject to specific recycling procedures.
Thanks to this research work, the set of Carmen recorded a financial saving of 8% and a 15-metric-ton reduction in CO2 emissions compared to traditional designs. And in 2019, all decommissioned sets enjoyed a second life by serving as scenographic elements for public spaces throughout the Sud Provence–Alpes–Côte d’Azur region. Through this approach, the workshops' teams include end-of-life sets cycle: from their outset to their decommisioning via transportation and storage. Numerous initiatives are implemented to reduce the environmental impact of the productions of the Festival.
In 2021, the Festival has made the development of waste- and energy-management procedures a top priority.
Operation of the venues
Five main stages
The Festival uses five main venues: the Théâtre de l’Archevêché, the Grand Théâtre de Provence, the Théâtre du Jeu de Paume, the Cour de l’Hôtel Maynier d’Oppède and the Auditorium of the Conservatoire Darius Milhaud, supplemented by the venues used for preludes, tête-à-tête and concerts of the Académie: Théâtre du Bois de l’Aune, Courtyard of the Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur, Abbaye de Silvacane, and outside venues in towns in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, Aix-Marseille Provence metropole and Région Sud Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.
For tours, as in Aix-en-Provence, the technical department calls on the services of professionals in general technical, production and stage crafts, together with stage machinery operators, electricians, props specialists, audiovisual technicians, costumiers, hairdressers and decorators, etc.