Monique Veaute, a festival that is also an open house

Antonio Mancinelli

If one had to summarise Monique Veaute’s personality with one word, it would probably be ‘curiosity’. In 1982, she founded and directed the Music section of the Paris Biennale and helped create the Strasbourg Music Festival. She founded the Villa Medici Festival in Rome two years later. Honorary president of the Fondazione Romaeuropa and formerly general director of Palazzo Grassi in Venice, she was appointed artistic director of the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto in 2020. She has created a number of interdisciplinary arts programmes for this year’s programme, organising them around three main themes: the music of the Two Worlds, the voice of women and new ways of presenting music and dance.


She has not neglected theatre and opera, however, and is seeking to restore the cosmopolitan and multidisciplinary richness that founder Gian Carlo Menotti was famed for. She is also reestablishing the festival as a ‘seismograph of the present’, and even of the future, with a continuous investigation ranging from established talents to new names that in many cases are making their Italian debuts. Endowed with great organisational skills, she has cultivated the subtle art of understatement and humour, underpinned by iron discipline. “I would say that the guidelines that Menotti gave the Festival are generic but very interesting: originality, novelty and rarity. These three words effectively give space to any cultural field: anything that is special, even if it is much more difficult to find something like that today. This approach allowed Menotti to discover incredible artists”, she said.

Monique Veaute © Studio Hänninen

The question may seem trivial, but why did you personally accept the invitation to direct? This is a complicated role…

Because it is one of the longest-running cultural events. It has been going for 64 years. So I said to myself: if other festivals have come and gone, evidently Spoleto represents something that is really special in the world arts scene. I said to myself: ‘There is something that lies in the origins of this event’. That is why we had to search for its DNA. We had the idea of exploring the future, always putting artists centre stage.


And what did you discover?

That he had a revolutionary way of interpreting classicism. Just as today, when young people return to the classics and reinterpret them, or innovative performers play classical music. This is also my ‘method’. I am also very interested by authors who begin the creative process with music: Jeanne Candel with the performance Demi-Veronique, is inspired by Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5; Jeanne Candel and Samuel Achache direct Le Crocodile Trompeur, a ‘contemporary farce” taking Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas as its starting point. I am fascinated by those who start with music to arrive at surprising results.


Menotti also had a polysemic trajectory, addressing various sectors and audiences

In this edition, once again, there will be many events with themes about the contemporary world. For example, one topic that is very close to our hearts is sustainability, and there will be a series of speeches with very many contributions.

In the world of culture, just think about how much could be achieved if we reused costumes and scenography.


You have done a huge amount of scouting work…

Of course, I  went in search of the new generation of dancers, actors, singers and musicians. For example, I went to see Argentinian choreographer Ayelen Parolin, who is very popular with young people, and I found her ballet WEG totally chaotic. Then I realised I was the only one in the audience with white hair. Even so, she won me over. And with this melting pot of cultural legends, for example with Thomas Ostermeier and up-and-coming talents including Yoann Bourgeois, Spoleto will once again become, in my opinion, a cultural epicentre offering the highest quality. It’s strange: I’ve been doing this job for fifty years and people always say ‘you can’t invent anything new’. But no. Even when treating old music or text, you always find a new perspective, a point of view, a reading that you would never have thought of before. And it is beautiful.