In the 17th and 18th centuries, the desire to experience the world’s great art firsthand inspired the European tradition of continental travel on “the grand tour.” Inspired to set out on pilgrimages by land and sea to the great cultural centers of Europe, and eventually the globe, those early travelers often risked life and limb to stand in the presence of masterpieces. It’s that original dedication to expanding one’s horizons by visiting the great art centers of Europe that fueled director Diane Challis Davy’s excitement and research as she fine-tuned plans for next summer’s Pageant, The Grand Tour.
At the annual meeting of the Festival of Arts in early November, Challis Davy unveiled her selections of artworks to be recreated in tableaux vivants – “living pictures” – in next summer’s production of Pageant of the Masters.
On grand tours, art became a destination for privileged travelers in much the way the Pageant during its 84-year history has become a destination for theatregoers who want to experience art in a one-of-a-kind entertainment. “Much of the show will unfold like a journey,” said Challis Davy.
There’ll be no shortage of masterpieces in the 2017 Pageant, including works by Leonardo da Vinci, Tiepolo, Longhi, Watteau, Reynolds and Romney. But, as in previous years, the production’s theme will expand its theme to include American artists like John Singer Sargent whose work was transformed by his travels.
With the coming of the 20th century, new modes of transportation made it possible for almost everyone to go on their own grand tour, and the theatrical possibilities assure no shortage of Pageant-style fun and inventive showmanship. A side trip to Pompeii, a celebration of Carnival in Venice and the European tour of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show offer abundant opportunities for surprises and special effects. And a tribute to Paris in the early 20th century when audiences in clubs embraced the talents of Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington reveals how a change of scene can launch an artist’s career.
Among the great stories associated with the early grand tours, Challis Davy has her own favorites including the romantic saga of Lord Hamilton, Emma Hart and Lord Nelson, whose exploits helped make Naples a must-see destination during the late 18th century.
Scriptwriter Dan Duling explained, “I hope we can recreate some of that sense of awe shared by those early travelers when they visited the grand palaces, ancient ruins and art centers of Europe. The original grand tours were educational pilgrimages, to Paris, Rome and beyond. Those who made the journeys couldn’t help but be changed by what they saw, what they brought back, and what they experienced so far from home.”
As always, Challis Davy and her staff realize the Pageant wouldn’t be possible without their volunteers who make it their summer destination, traveling from all over the Southland and returning year after year to take part. Challis Davy offered one final thought before getting back to work on plans for the 2017 Pageant. “The Grand Tour is about travel for pleasure. And what greater pleasure can there be than to find oneself in the presence of great art at the end of the journey?”
About the Pageant of the Masters®
The Pageant of the Masters is the Festival of Arts’ crowning jewel and arguably one of the most unique productions in the entire world.
On each evening of the Festival of Arts summer schedule, ticket holders are amazed and enchanted by ninety minutes of tableaux vivants (living pictures), incredibly faithful recreations of classical and contemporary works of art, with real people posing to look exactly like their counterparts in the original pieces.
An outdoor amphitheater, professional orchestra, original score, live narration, intricate sets, sophisticated lighting, expert staff and hundreds of dedicated volunteers have won recognition for the Pageant of the Masters as the best presentation of its kind.
Two Shows for the Price of One!
Don’t forget your Pageant ticket gives you unlimited access to the Festival of Arts Fine Art Show all summer long. Come early and listen to some great music, get a glass of wine, see and purchase some fabulous art. Plus enjoy special events, the newly renovated grounds and celebrate the Festival’s 85th anniversary with us!