Musical Meetings of Champéry: The Sorcerer's Apprentice

April 29, 2024
By Reut Golinsky
Photo © Reut Golinsky

Recipe for a magical skating show:

  • 1 cup of beautiful scenery
  • 1 great cast of skaters
  • A handful of young students from the skating school
  • A dash of classical music
  • Original arrangements, to taste

Instructions:
1. Start by selecting a picturesque place to hold your skating show in. Ensure it's visually stunning and adds appeal for the foreign fans to come and explore it.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the great cast of skaters. Make sure they bring talent, skill, and charisma to the ice.
3. Sprinkle in the kids from your skating school. They'll add a touch of innocence and enthusiasm to the show.
4. Slice the classical music and gently fold it into the mix. Finally, add the original arrangement of popular tunes to spice things up.
5. Patiently bake for over a year until the show is perfectly golden. Serve to the audience on August 8-9 as a part of a traditional musical festival.

Rencontres Musicales

Musikdorf Ernen, Gommer Sommerkonzerte, FestiVal d'Anniviers, Festival des Haud├Ęres, Crans-Montana Classics, Sion Festival, and, of course, the famous Verbier Festival. It's an understatement to say that classical events abound in the canton of Valais, especially during the summer months. With such abundance, the challenge is to stand out. The Rencontres Musicales (Musical Meetings) of Champéry, traditionally very regional, have recognized this challenge and embarked on a task to attract broader attention.

"At nearly 25 years old, we have enough maturity to reflect on our identity," pleads the president of the festival, Georges Mariétan. "And if classical music can sometimes seem inaccessible to the younger generation, it is important to sharpen their ears through adapted performances." Several new features were introduced last year to popularise this genre of music. In total, 2000 spectators of all ages flocked to the nine evenings of this classical music festival over two weeks.

This summer, the festival will celebrate its quarter-century. With internationally renowned artists and key works from the repertoire, the 25th edition will be full of surprises. One of them is a musical ice show, an artistic adventure that combines the grace and virtuosity of classical music with the elegance and beauty of skating, presented by Stéphane Lambiel and Béatrice Berrut. "The idea is to connect music with skating and to invite Béatrice Berrut, a pianist from Valais, the region I grew up in," Stéphane explained. "We actually went to the same high school; we're from the same generation and have known each other for years. Each of us has developed our own career, and now it's an opportunity to reconnect."

Convinced that there's only good music and bad music, Béatrice Berrut comfortably navigates various compositional genres and has been commissioned to write works for both classical music series and films. Rooted in European tradition, her music bears resemblance to Ravel and Scriabin, blending with American minimalism and cinematic heroic rhetoric. Additionally, she transforms "Muse" songs and Disney classics into virtuoso piano pieces reminiscent of Romantic composers like Rachmaninoff, Chopin, and Liszt.

Known for both challenging and passionately supporting classical tradition, Béatrice aims to blur genre boundaries and make classical music more accessible through interdisciplinary projects. The festival she founded hosts classical concerts alongside klezmer, jazz, and flamenco performances. Hence, her collaboration for the figure skating show around "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," the symphonic poem by Paul Dukas, seems natural and fitting. In addition to classical works by Liszt, Mahler, Saint-Sa├źns, and Stravinsky, she will enchant the audience with her own renditions of the "Harry Potter Theme" and "Higitus Figitus," (from the 1963 Disney animated feature film, "The Sword in the Stone") as well as her original compositions "What the Forest Whispers" and "Bipolar Mermaid."

Champéry

One of Switzerland's oldest tourist destinations (first mentioned in 1286!), Champéry became Valais' inaugural Olympic Village after hosting curling events during the Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympics. Despite the village undergoing significant changes over the years, the quaint main street and the nearby hamlet of Barme retain all the authentic charm of yesteryear.

The village is situated at 1050 m in the Chablais region at the foot of the Dents-du-Midi and the Dents Blanches. Here, visitors can choose from over 800 km of hiking trails and over 300 km of marked bike paths suitable for all skill levels. Additional tourist facilities include a horse-riding center, tennis courts, and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. At the high plateau of Barme at 1500 m, in a picturesque setting perfect for family outings, woodland walks, or mushroom gathering, a 40 m high limestone cliff offers marked climbing routes of varying difficulty levels.

A few travel tips: Switzerland can indeed be pricey to visit, but you can still enjoy an unforgettable trip without overspending. If you plan to stay in the Portes du Soleil area, take advantage of the free and discounted activities available with the Portes du Soleil Multi Pass card. Consider using the Saver Day Pass for your travel days to and from the airport or the "Lake Geneva - Alps" pass for exploring the region. Instead of focusing on costly attractions, relax at the tranquil Chillon Beach and take a refreshing swim in the lake with its amazing backdrop, or enjoy a stroll near the picturesque Pissevache waterfall, both free and just a 30-minute drive from Champéry. And, of course, try one of the numerous hiking trails offering stunning vistas at every turn, such as Galerie Défago iconic walk that provides some of the best views over the entire Val d'Illiez.

The Skating School of Sorcery

Another milestone celebration awaits this coming summer: the ten-year anniversary of the Skating School of Switzerland, established in the summer of 2014.
The school upholds values of trust, respect, hard work, and passion and aims to provide comprehensive training for elite skaters by offering personalised approaches and a holistic program encompassing on-ice training, physical conditioning, dance classes, and nutritional guidance or career management. It is recognized as one of ISU Centers of Excellence since its pilot phase launched in October 2019. The Skating School attracts young skaters from across the globe, from Swiss hopefuls to international champions. In 2023, skaters from twenty-two nations found inspiration and received training advice on the ice of the Palladium sports centre.

Eight years ago, when Stéphane was putting together his "Ice Legends," he mentioned that he wasn't picking the cast based on their titles and medals, but rather he was looking for skaters he genuinely wanted to share the ice with. And you can see that same vibe here. The lineup features foreign star students (Shoma Uno, Koshiro Shimada, Deniss Vasiljevs) and friends of the Skating School (Satoko Miyahara, Marin Honda, Juulia Turkkila and Matthias Versluis). Stéphane himself, along with Giulia Isceri, one of the coaches and a yoga instructor at the school, will also be performing solos. Evoking the feeling of a family gathering, this show is a lovely way to give back to the community that has warmly welcomed the school's students over the past decade, becoming their home away from home.

The work on the show started over a year ago, with ideas for the group numbers being tried out during the summer camp in 2023. "Each piece will have its own story, but the main theme will be magic, with a little boy discovering magic through different personalities," Stéphane revealed in our interview last autumn. With the setlist published on the official site of the festival, the main intrigue remains who will perform to each of the musical pieces. One could guess that Stéphane and Koshiro will reprise their programs to Mahler and "Danse Macabre" accordingly. As "Bipolar Mermaid" is part of Beatrice Berrut's "Untold Tales" series, presented as "tales that tell the stories of women, far away from the clich├ęs Western traditional tales like to put them," one might expect it to be portrayed by Satoko or Marin. And, based on various recent interviews and TV reports, we know that Deniss will have a program to "The Firebird," while Shoma's program will have something to do with "Harry Potter," either as a solo number or as a collaboration. Speaking of collaborations, we've been promised some pretty exciting ones, to be announced soon.

"From the start, we wanted to have the show recorded and broadcast, because we wanted as many people as possible to enjoy it despite the smaller venue," says Christopher Trevisan, the director of the Skating School. "We are in negotiations to stream and/or broadcast in Japan and in other parts of the world - not live but about a week later for logistical reasons. RTS will also be broadcasting at the end of the year. That being said, I don't need to explain how much better it is to experience skating live, so I would absolutely advise anyone who is able to travel to Champéry to go for it."

Tickets are now on sale, you can book them here.
Note: Platinum tickets can be purchased with an optional VIP package which includes an aperitif before the show and a buffet dinner after in the presence of some of the artists.


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