Last Saturday, July 20, my friend Joëlle suggested that we and her friend Danielle go to an outdoor concert. She kept the venue a surprise until we arrived, and what a beautiful surprise it was.
The concert was held in the little amphitheater behind Chateau Serres, about an hour’s drive from Carcassonne, near the Pyrenees. The concert’s theme was 300 years of music, starting with the Renaissance, and the trio (oboe, bassoon, and guitar) played about 10 different pieces. The setting was so beautiful it didn’t look real.
But it didn’t end there. After the concert (which started at 9:00 p.m. and ended at about 10:30) there was an outdoor wine reception. And after that, a seated three-course dinner for 18 of us, including the musicians, in the outdoor area near the Chateau (on the right of the photo below.) Dinner began at about 11:30 p.m., and we left the Chateau at 1:00 a.m. on Sunday.
Our host was Madame (Mme.) Michèle Deschamps, a long-time friend of Joëlle’s, and widow of famous French theater actor Monsieur (M.) Jean Deschamps. In the 1960s, she and M. Deschamps purchased the Chateau – a roofless ruin at the time – and they started the 25-year renovation in 1967.
Mme. Deschamps is on the left and Joëlle is on the right, showing Mme. Deschamps some photos of her and M. Deschamps taken in 1984.
Mme. Deschamps told me that they believe that the lower part of the Chateau was built some time between the years 1000 and 1100.
To complete the renovation, M. and Mme. Deschamps had stone quarried from the Saragan quarry, a four-hour drive from the Chateau, and created a huge stone theater in the quarry space left behind.
In the gardens of the Chateau, they also built the amphitheater, which hosts musical performances and seminars every summer.
A Few of M. Deschamp’s Contributions to Carcassonne
In addition to acting, Jean Deschamps was the director at our theater here in Carcassonne’s La Cité for 20 years, and the theater was named after him in 2006.
He also founded the Festival de Carcassonne (our Festival of Music) in 1957. Thanks to him, every July there are concerts and performances throughout La Cité and La Bastide each evening. This year there are 70 free performances, and almost 30 paid performances in La Cité’s amphitheater and Chateau (I saw Joan Baez perform in the amphitheater last Monday – loved it – I’ll post about that soon.) He also established many more theatrical institutions around the region.
Here are some more photos in and around the Chateau.
Joëlle and me.
Hanging out with the musicians at the Chateau’s front door before the concert.
Living room with gargantuan fireplace.
Stone sink in the bathroom.
Danielle and me at dinner.
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