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AFTER a three year absence, French festival Voilah! is back - this time with the aim to flood Singapore with as much joie de vivre as it commemorates 50 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and France.
Bertrand Pous, festival director and director of the Institut Francais Singapour, says: "This year's festival is the largest of its kind so far. It's a big year for both Singapore and French-Singapore relations, we wanted to make it special."
The festival commenced earlier this week and will run until June 21. With over 40 events happening during this seven-week period, it isn't surprising that planning for this event started a year in advance.
Mr Pous, 48, elaborates: "We wanted to orchestrate an event in Singapore that showcased the very best of French creativity and innovation in many different areas, while making sure it was accessible to people from all walks of life."
The programme includes a range of musical events, visual arts happenings, dance performances, scientific conferences, gastronomy experiences and movies, notes Benjamin Dubertret, the ambassador of France to Singapore. Mr Pous laughs, "I think we have enough events to showcase the breadth of French culture."
While the festival is full of varied events, Voilah! has a dual focus this year. First, to emphasise sustainable development in concert with COP 21, a climate change summit happening in Paris later this year, and second, to celebrate the works of pilot and award-winning author Antoine de Saint Exupery, who also talked about the importance of conserving the environment in his literary work.
Other scientific events to come include the Planet Ocean exhibition, which will be held today at Gardens by the Bay. It features photographs of the world's oceans, taken by renowned photographers Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Brian Skerry. The accompanying documentary Planet Ocean filmed by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Michael Pitiot will also be screened.
What's a French festival without food, and there's plenty of it over the seven-week period.
Special menus, spirit tastings, and cooking classes will take place with more than 60 participating outlets, including Paul, Absinthe and The French Cellar.
Antoine de Saint Exupery's classic work The Little Prince will be exhibited at two venues.
The Fullerton Hotel will host The Little Prince Art Collection with hand-painted sculptures and rare original manuscripts and drawings by the author himself, while Alliance Francaise du Singapour (AFS) has a rather different approach.
In collaboration with the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped, AFS will present the first-ever attempt to experience Saint Exupery's illustrations using only one's sense of touch.
The Little Prince in the Dark will showcase all-white sculptures in the dark, and these will be complemented by audio and Braille versions of the story.
The Victoria Theatre will be transformed to host Fete Royale, an extravagant enactment of the Renaissance festival of the Royal Court on June 6. In keeping with the traditions of the day, you can expect elaborate costumes, musicians, and acrobatics at this musical performance.
Asia's premier music festival, Music Matters, will also dedicate a pavilion to showcase French artistes for the first time. Held at Clarke Quay, the festival showcases a range of genres, including pop folk music by 26-year-old Cameroonian singer, Irma Pany.
Even before the dust has had a chance to settle, Mr Pous is already planning for Voilah! 2016.
"This year was a little challenging, but we now have a strong foundation to build upon for future editions. We already have a few leads to follow up for next year, and we're planning to make it a perennial event and have it grow every year. Voilah! is here to stay," he says.
The Planet Ocean screening will be held at 8pm at Gardens by the Bay. Entry is free. The Little Prince in the Dark is open until June 20, from 11am to 7pm on Mondays to Fridays and 11am to 5pm on Saturdays, at Alliance Francaise. Admission is free.
Fete Royale will take place at the Victoria Theatre on June 6 at 8pm. Tickets are available from Sistic, and start from S$38. For more information about these and other events, please visit www.voilah.sg