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Millennium Plays On at Eiffel Tower

Music: Conducted by Seiji Ozawa, the Boston Symphony performed the first free classical concert ever held at the site.

May 07, 2000|JASON STRAZIUSO | ASSOCIATED PRESS

PARIS — After ushering in the millennium with a sparkling feast for the eyes, the Eiffel Tower continued the party Friday with a treat for the ears--an extravaganza concert of classical favorites with Seiji Ozawa conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Tens of thousands of Parisians spread over the Champs de Mars, lounging on picnic blankets, sipping wine and watching the musicians on stage under the famed tower, gently lit for the occasion.

Organizers expected 100,000 Parisians to show up for the concert, which city officials billed as the first free classical concert ever presented at the base of the Iron Lady.

"You couldn't have imagined that so many people would have shown up for this kind of concert," said Christian Gillet, a Parisian who came straight from work, dressed in a suit.

Japanese-born Ozawa, 64, conducted his orchestra and the Orchestre de Paris along with a chorus of 600 children and adults.

The concert, widely regarded as the centerpiece of the city's millennium celebrations, cost more than $2 million for an 8,000-square-foot stage and a special proscenium arch upon which skylines of Paris and Boston were projected along with images evoking the grandeur of opera.

"I expected something more simple, but even the backstage is paradise," Ozawa said. "We could have a party."

Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli joined the orchestras, performing arias from Puccini's Tosca and Verdi's Rigoletto, and the beloved French children's melody "Frere Jacques."

The 60-minute concert was to be topped off with the finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the "Ode to Joy." As the orchestra played the last note, a heavy downpour began, soaking concert-goers.

The concert marks the last foreign tour for Ozawa and the Boston Symphony before he resigns as music director to take up a new post in 2002 with the Vienna Opera.

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