Les Anges Blancs

Australian Ambassador to France, Mr Brendan Berne, Jennifer Mackinlay, Senior Trade Commissioner at Austrade and ABIE Board Member, Veronica Comyn, ABIE Vice president

World War I was remembered in a hauntingly beautiful opera performed at the Australian Embassy on Monday, October 23rd.

The opera, Les Anges Blancs, was performed by the Orchestre de Picardie, and was the highlight of a memorable first reception given by the recently arrived Australian Ambassador, His Excellency Mr Brendan Berne.

The scenario is based on three French musicians who actually fought in the Great War: Maurice Jaspart, a clarinetist who lost an arm in an explosion, Joseph Boulnois, a composer, and Maurice Maréchal, a violoncellist who played his music from the trenches with an instrument he made himself.

The vast Embassy hall briefly became an army hospital, lit only by flickering lanterns, the musicians’ small lights and the Eiffel Tower shimmering outside.  The singers moved through and around the audience, lending even more authenticity to the scene.

In his welcoming speech, Ambassador Berne paid tribute to the courage of the fledgling nation, Australia.

“Our nation of less than five million at the time made an enormous sacrifice in sending nearly 10% of its population to serve on all the fronts between 1914 and 1918.

“One hundred years ago, for the first time, our country took part in a world conflict, far from its home, to defend its values.

“In choosing to present this opera tonight, at the beginning of my three years with you, I wish to pay a tribute to the sacrifice of the Australian fighters and to the nurses who supported them.”

Following the opera, the 150 guests, including a number of ABIE Board and Corporate Members, moved to the Ambassador’s residence for a champagne reception, again lit by the Eiffel Tower, but this time with a totally different atmospheric effect.