My Reminiscences of events, old and new, and travels, far and near
Monday, July 28, 2014
Historical fireworks in Paris in July 2014
In my last post I showed the historical parade down the Champs-Elysees in Paris on the 14 July. This had been a special parade because it included soldiers and flags from 80 invited countries - countries who took part in World War 1 (started 100 years ago today - 28 July 2014.)
In the afternoon there was a special program called "Les Parisiens accueillent leurs soldats" (Parisians welcome their soldiers.) These were friendly gatherings of soldiers and citizens in several areas of Paris, such as near the Opera, close to Le Louvre, and seven other locations. The soldiers explained their missions, their lives, etc. to the Parisians. Then in the evening, at the Champs-de-Mars (adjacent to the Eiffel Tower) a classical concert was offered for all to enjoy. The concert included 250 musicians, choir singers and opera singers. It was filmed by 24 cameras and a camera in a helicopter. The theme of the concert this year was "War and Peace." I think that's why it was a classical program, as I don't believe rap music or loud rock would have been appropriate. The concert started at 9:30 pm when it was still light. I was able to watch it live on my computer - it was magnificent. 200,000 spectators were expected to come to watch this concert and 500,000 came! You can see the crowd below by the feet of the Eiffel Tower. The theme for the 2013 Concert was "Love in Paris" (L'Amour a Paris.)
This "Concert de Paris" 2014 was performed by the Orchestre National de France and the choir of Radio France, under the baton of maestro Daniele Gatti. Internationally famous opera soloists also performed on the stage. The program included well-known classical and opera pieces by Wagner, Prokofiev, Berlioz, Puccini, Bizet and more. American bel canto tenor Lawrence Brownlee sang Donizetti's "Una furtiva lagrima" with much emotion. Russian soprano Olga Peretyatko and Latvian mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca sang the lovely duo from the opera Lakme of Leo Delibes. The orchestra gave a good rendition of the main theme of the movie Star War.
While the music was playing the camera turned several times to a panorama of Paris. The sun was setting - in July in Paris that is close to 10:00 pm. Later, as the sky darkened it was possible to see fireworks from other parts of Paris.
The stage was set at the feet of the Eiffel Tower and the tower could be seen behind and above the stage.
The concert ended with the French national anthem, La Marseillaise. All the opera performers as well as the 120 choir members and the standing public sang in unison.
It was approaching 11:00 pm when the fireworks display started. For the first time since the year 2000 the fireworks were actually launched from the Eiffel Tower itself rather than from the Champs-de-Mars. 330 projectors and 550 spotlights were used. It took 6 months for 50 pyrotechnic specialists to work on this display. The 35 minutes firework program cost the City of Paris close to 600,000 Euros or US $805,650. The whole length of the tower was used to launch the fireworks so that it could be seen from all over Paris. Pyrotechnic letters were shown on the tower to introduce the spectacle using words and dates so the public could follow the chronology of the show.
One hundred light beams had been installed on the Champs-de-Mars to illuminate the Eiffel Tower. In addition one hundred flame generators had been placed on the first two floors of the tower to keep it ablaze with light. It certainly was a breathtaking spectacle.
The show was accompanied by an original soundtrack of standard classical music including the Requiem of Verdi, the Requiem of Mozart, the "Ode to Joy" of Beethoven and even "Imagine" the music of John Lennon. The music, Bengal fires, fire rockets, stars and everything exploding had been shaped into 5 meaningful sequences: Introduction 2014-1914. First evocation: The Great War - tribute to the victims of the conflict. Second evocation: The Second World War - tribute to the victims of the conflict. Third evocation: the light returns. Fourth evocation: Reconciliation and Reconstruction - tribute to Veterans for Peace and Brotherhood, and some wishes. The first wish was: France, open and peaceful nation.
The second wish was: that joy remains, long live peace! (In French peace is "paix.")
Certainly we all wish for peace and would celebrate it if it ever came to pass ... Here is a list from a quick search on the Web for current armed conflicts: Syrian Civil War, threat of genocide in the Central African Republic, Northern Mali conflict, post Civil War violence in Libya, internal conflict in Mozambique, Civil war in Iraq, Islamist insurgency in Nigeria, South Sudanese Civil War, South Yemen insurgency, Pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine, ongoing war in Afghanistan and the current Israel and Gaza armed conflict. In France the First World War was also called "La Der des Ders" der is an abbreviation for derniere meaning last or the Last of the Last and in English is was called "The war to end all wars" ... an optimism that was not fulfilled.
"If we don't end war, war will end us" - H. G. Wells, English writer, 1866-1946