President Macron declares a ‘white year’ for the arts

President Macron declares a ‘white year’ for the arts


norman lebrecht

May 06, 2020

In a two-hour video conference this morning, the French President extended unemployment rights to musicians through to the end of August.

Some bookstores and museums may reopen after May 11, but he said there could be no assurance that performances would resume from September and he urged artists to rethink their activity.

He spoke of a need to to invent new forms of engagement with the public, combining ‘common sense and innovation’.



  • MDR says:

    Does he have any suggestions?

    • Frankster says:

      A few years ago, one orchestra did an unannounced ‘flash’ concert in a train station. But those locations are almost empty now.

    • IntBaritone says:

      While I think it’s fine for him to offer suggestions, it’s really up to artists to make a plan. Yes, it’s unfair. No, artists are not the only ones dealing with this. They need to become more entrepreneurial, more creative, and less tied to the past. Then, maybe, opera has a chance. If not? We’ll always have great recordings from the past (and a lot of current bankrupt singers).

  • DAVID says:

    until August 2021.

  • Peter San Diego says:

    Is there any way, I wonder, to make recordings once again a significant source of musicians’ income? Studio recording (of solo and chamber music, at least) could be achieved under social distancing conditions, and perhaps the public’s frustrated appetite for live music could be channeled into reviving the market for recordings, whether via download or physical media.

    The economics of recording in the classical sphere make this unlikely, I admit — but someone might come up with a creative concept to revive it.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      Chances are, it wouldn’t be terribly lucrative, given that pretty much every single piece of music has already been recorded numerous times. It’s a struggle even under the best of conditions.

    • IntBaritone says:

      Sadly, no. There are essentially 0 current singers that I would pay to listen to over Pavarotti, Freni, Callas, Corelli, Fisher-Dieskau (etc).

    • John Borstlap says:

      I was thinking along similar lines. There must be something possible in that direction.

  • Macron suggest us “to rethink their activity”. It means- forget about arts and go to work in supermarket. Great. Centuries of building culture life – in garbage. Of course, in “brave new world” they dont need artists. Churchill did not wanted world without culture. Our modern leaders- obviously would prefer such developement.

  • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    Oui, until August 2021 ! At least he realizes that there is a problem and is trying to address it.

    Macron bashing is very fashionable in France but he is a cultured, intelligent man worthy of the office he holds…(those 3 dots are full of meaning to some countries.).

    • Arts Lover... says:


      Apparently you are totally ignorant of the long-standing “gilets jaunes” movement…among other substantive facts.

      The Champs-Élysées and numerous cultural icons were trashed out due to this “cultured, intelligent man ‘worthy’ of the office he holds…” not to long ago under his shoddy ‘leadership’.

      You need to stop watching the tabloids like CNN, MSNBC, etc and seek out other, more DIVERSE news sources and grow into manhood.

      Without robust commerce and most importantly wealthy people (mostly white historically) we would not have critical support for the arts everybody still cleaves to. All the great composers, concert halls and opera houses are the still structural BASIS used to perform and judge the arts today. I’m very in favor of the evolution and inclusion of all walks of life supporting and participating in the arts but the white, male bashing and snubbing of others places those on the left in an obviously minuscule position.

      Simply put, if those in control of the arts actually knew what they were doing, Norman wouldn’t have HAD to run yet another “opera is dying with the older set” piece, well-established venues like the MET would have HONORED their musicians financially and the lot of the concert halls would have cash reserves and investments enough to easily endure a time like this without sarcastically BEGGING or FOLDING in 2 seconds flat!

      PS A piece on the support for individual PERFORMERS is the next topic Norman should focus on after they have been ABANDONED in their hour of need by their companies.

      • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

        Thank you for the comeuppance. In addition to CNN and other “tabloids”I also watch most credible news sources on French TV, public and private, plus BBC and Al Jazeera. Sorry, but Fox news is not part of my daily repertoire.

        Your vote of no-confidence for those who run arts organizations is perhaps too pessimistic, IMHO.

        “Les gilets jaunes” were the result of Mr. Melanchon and Mr.Philippe Hernandez of the CGT (union) and their unwillingness to discuss any rational compromise. Yes, Macron could have done better, I agree with that, but he also is constantly willing to admit mistakes and try to find solutions. That’s my 2 centimes of a euro.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Arts lover writes: “Without robust commerce and most importantly wealthy people we would not have critical support for the arts”

        Er…you do know that this model is pretty much unique to the US. In Europe the arts are largely supported by government subsidy.

    • Marquis de Sade says:

      Macron is also a fairly accomplished pianist and in his youth even considered a professional career as a concert pianist. He has spoken often of his love for Schumann’s piano music and his pleasure playing it. Apart from Mark Rutte in the Netherlands, himself an accomplished pianist, Macron is the only other musically literate leader in the G20.

      I don’t know about Trump’s piano skills, but somebody told me that Trump is a big fan of the piano music of Charles-Valentin Alkan and wanted to organise a festival around Alkan’s music at his Mar-a-Lago estate and that Melania and Eric Jr. would be the two co-chairpersons of the jury.

      We all need a laugh in these very trying times.

      • John Borstlap says:

        My fly on the wall informs me that Mr Trump has a secret nobody has detected as yet: in between angry tweets and furious phone calls he slips into the toilet with his ipad and listens to a recording of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre’.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Umm…you do know that Angela Merkel in Germany regularly attends the opera at her own expense. And Boris Johnson also appreciates classical music. I am sure there are other European leaders for which this is true.

        Just because Trump has no real appreciation for European classical music, doesn’t mean this is true for others.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Merkel and Johnson have not made culture an important point in the programs of their parties. Merkel possibly because it was not necessary, but about Johnson we know enough.

  • urania says:

    We have to consider that there is a revolution against the society ongoing. We have to adapt new ways of thinking and living.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Please speak for yourself. I have already adapted to new ways of thinking and living long before the coronie.

  • Symphony musician says:

    A long period with no large-scale concerts is a terrifying prospect.
    There is an opportunity here for composers, and decent musicians who might be able to compose, to start to create a new and substantial body of music people might actually want to listen to and to play. We could thus occupy ourselves for now, and potentially generate renewed interest in concerts in future.
    In any case, the current model of narrow conservatoire/university-based study of composition along with a system of commissioning and competitions largely divorced from the audience and the performers was already becoming unsustainable.

  • Edward says:

    Only one letter out…

  • Scott says:

    It’s a terrible, even fatal time for so much of our cultural life. But: the foundation of all of that brilliant edifice is surely each person, alone or with a few friends, doing art, making art — not just consuming art. What we need for music, in the face of this crisis, is to put the emphasis on education, on bringing the making of music back into our homes, and stronger.

  • fflambeau says:

    A “white year”? What’s that all about?

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      It is a literal translation of a French expression which mean a year without paying certain taxes.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Rightwing extremists – like the followers of Marine LePen – joyfully think it means a ban on coloured players, a subject that is their greatest worry, much more so than the coronie.

  • Mick the Knife says:

    “…rethink their activity. He spoke of a need to to invent new forms of engagement with the public, combining ‘common sense and innovation’.”

    In plain English: “Let them eat cake”

  • DAVID says:

    “Année blanche” means blank year, not “white year” — i.e., a year without activity whatsoever. It’s a French idiomatic expression which cannot be translated literally.