The cultural climate of the Principality developed rapidly in the seventeenth century with the encouragement of Prince Honoré III. Under Prince Pierre of Monaco during the first half of the twentieth century, Monaco was a meeting place for all the greatest artists of the time.
Following this lengthy art patronage tradition, H.S.H. Prince Rainier III includes culture and arts as one of his principal concerns. For over fifty years of His reign, H.S.H. Prince Rainier III has encouraged all forms of arts from music to literature.
Under His auspices, Monaco’s Music Academy was founded in 1956. The National Philharmonic Orchestra initiated summer performances in the Palace’s Courtyard of Honor. In memory of His Father, Prince Pierre de Monaco, H.S.H. Prince Rainier III instituted the Foundation Prince Pierre, which assigns the Prince Pierre Literary Prize (since 1951), the Musical Composition Prize (since 1960), and the Contemporary Art International Prize (since 1983). His H.S.H. Prince Rainier III created the Directorate of Cultural Affairs in 1966, responsible for coordinating and encouraging all cultural activities of the Principality including the Spring Arts Festival, the Baroque Music Week, and the International Circus Festival.
Under His direction, Monaco’s cultural institutions have also gained international prestige. The Little Singers of Monaco went on their first tour around the world in 1973.
The Prince receives support from His family in His interest in the arts. The late Princess Grace was at the origin of many developments, such as The Princess Grace Irish Library. In 1964, the Princess Grace of Monaco Foundation was created to support the performing arts. The Dance Academy Princess Grace, directed by Marika Besobrasova, is an offshoot of this foundation.
H.S.H. the Princess of Hanover reformed the academy in 1985 to launch the Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. The Princess also presides over the Spring Arts Festival.
Today, Monaco counts several major cultural ambassadors:
- The Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra
The first permanent orchestra established in 1863 came into its own with the opening of the Garnier Palace in 1879. In 1953 it became known as the National Orchestra of the Monte-Carlo Opera, and it was renamed the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra in 1979. Many great conductors of this century, from Richard Strauss to Toscanini and Leonard Berstein to Lorin Maazel, have led the orchestra in concert. The Orchestra’s Music Directors have included Paul Paray, Louis Fremaux, Igor Markevitch, Lovro von Matacic, Laurence Foster and James DePreist. Today, the Artistic Director and Conductor in chief of the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra is Marek Janowski.
- Opera of Monte-Carlo
Since its creation in 1879, the Opera of Monte-Carlo has gained international fame, playing a key role in promoting the most beautiful voices to the rest of Europe. The Opera of Monte-Carlo secured a reputation for artistic innovation. Authors such as Bizet, Franck or Massenet wrote some of their works for the Monéguasque Opera. Regularly, the Opera goes on tours to play works of its repertoire.
- Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo
After founding the Academy, which bears her name, Princess Grace wished to revive an old tradition by inviting George Balanchine, Serge Lifar and J.B. Cerrone, a Monégasque who directed the “Harkness Ballet” and founded the “Houston Ballet”. Remembering her mother’s wishes, H.R.H. the Princess of Hanover created the new Monte-Carlo Ballet, the management of which she first entrusted to Ghislaine Thesmar and Pierre Lacotte. Today Jean-Marc Genestie is responsible for the Administrative Direction and Jean-Christophe Maillot is the Choreographer. With enthusiasm and competence, they are striving together to raise the Company to the highest international level.
- The Little Singers of Monaco
These young voices carry on a tradition from the reign of Prince Antoine I in the early eighteenth century, when an ensemble of children’s voices sang the liturgies in the Palatine Chapel. In 1973, the Government of the Principality asked the late Philippe Debat, whose son Pierre is the current Chapel Master, to carry out a musical mission in every country of the world with a choir of children’s voices only. Prince Rainier III affectionately called this choir of 26 boys “My Little Singing Ambassadors”.