President Macron visits the Villa Viardot in Bougival on the occasion of the European Heritage Days

On Saturday, 15 September, with the European Heritage Days in full swing across France, the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron, accompanied by his wife Mrs. Brigitte Macron, paid a special visit to the Villa Viardot in Bougival.  The Villa Viardot is one of the 18 priority sites that will receive support from the Heritage Lotto following the selection made by Stéphane Bern, in the framework of his mission granted by the French Presidency of the Republic. The presidential couple’s visit was all the more meaningful as the restoration of this iconic masterpiece of Europe’s musical heritage, as well as the project for a future European Music Centre in Bougival – conceived and led by Jorge Chaminé – have each received the high patronage of Europa Nostra and its President, Maestro Plácido Domingo.

This event also presented the opportunity for many key players in the cultural heritage sector in France to come together, including Françoise Nyssen, Minister of Culture, and Stéphane Bern – both of whom attended the European Cultural Heritage Summit co-organised by Europa Nostra in Berlin in June. Guillaume Poitrinal, President of the “Fondation du patrimoine” (Heritage Foundation) and Stéphane Pallez, President of “La Française des Jeux” (the operator of France’s national lottery games) were also present. An important delegation from Europa Nostra – represented by Honorary President Denis de Kergorlay, Board Member Laurent Lévi-Strauss and its Secretary-General Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović – had the pleasure of attending this event and conveying a special message from Maestro Plácido Domingo.

It was against the backdrop of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the European anthem, that the great minds of the past, the present and the future met in Bougival. Guided by the President of the European Music Centre, Jorge Chaminé, President Macron and his wife demonstrated great interest both in the history of this site, where great artists from all over Europe once gathered, and in its future project, which is deeply rooted in European values. President Macron later signed the guestbook there, in the presence of the portrait of Pauline Viardot, one of the founders of the “Europe of arts and culture”.

The President of Europa Nostra, Maestro Plácido Domingo, expressed the profound emotion he felt during his visit to Bougival in June 2016: “That day, I was unable to conceal my emotions and my tears: both while thinking of Pauline Viardot and Georges Bizet, those musical geniuses who meant so much to me in my life as a singer and musician and also while witnessing the state of disrepair of those important sites of memory that I had just discovered. Sites with a distinctly European legacy, as the “Europe of arts and culture” was born there, in Bougival”, he wrote in his message, which was read aloud by Ms. Quaedvlieg-Mihailović.

Maestro Domingo reiterated his full support for the project led by Jorge Chaminé to establish the future European Music Centre: a place to preserve memory and facilitate encounters, serving as a bridge between artistic disciplines “which will once again bring to light the wonderful and prestigious past of Bougival, while looking towards a European and more congenial future, thanks to the power of music and all that comes with it. This is what each and everyone of us so eagerly strives for.

In his speech, the Mayor of Bougival, Luc Wattelle, highlighted the key role played by Europa Nostra in the development of this project: “First of all, I would like to acknowledge the presence of Europa Nostra, whose unfailing support, along with that of its President, Plácido Domingo, is both precious and absolutely crucial to us”. During the European Year of Cultural Heritage, the appeal to save the site was widely relayed by Europa Nostra and was ultimately acted upon by Stéphane Bern and the “Fondation du patrimoine”.

As part of the “Mission Stéphane Bern” that was initiated by President Macron, the Villa Viardot was identified as one of the 18 most endangered heritage sites in France. As such, its restoration will benefit from the funds raised by the very first Heritage Lottery, held on Friday 14 September, in which more than 2.5 million French people participated. On Saturday, 15 September, the “Fondation du patrimoine” and “Française des Jeux” presented a cheque for €500,000 was presented by to the Mayor of Bougival for the restoration of the Villa Viardot. The project will also benefit from a €100,000 donation from the “Fondation Total”.

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