SINGAPORE - This year's vOilah! France Singapore Festival celebrates the connections between the two countries with an exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of former French premier Georges Clemenceau's visits to Singapore.
Clemenceau In Singapore will also explore the social life of Singapore. The then premier stopped over in Singapore twice as part of his 1920 Asian tour, during which he officiated the groundbreaking ceremony of the construction of Clemenceau Avenue on Oct 22 and witnessed the laying of the foundation stone of the Cenotaph on Nov 15.
The exhibition, presented in partnership with Paris' Musée Clemenceau and on at the National Museum of Singapore from Oct 23 to Nov 22, will also have a webinar exploring the similarities between Clemenceau and Lim Boon Keng. Both were political activists with progressive views about modernising their societies.
France's ambassador to Singapore Marc Abensour describes Clemenceau, celebrated for leading France to victory in World War I, as "the embodiment of resilience". He adds: "There is a wonderful story to be told about his visit to Singapore."
Resilience is one of three messages the festival hopes to convey, the others being opportunity in crisis and the longstanding friendship between France and Singapore, he adds.
Clemenceau was also a playwright, and there will be a dramatised reading of his play, The Veil Of Happiness. The reading, featuring actors Janice Koh and Hossan Leong, will be streamed on the festival's Facebook page.
Like other events held during the pandemic, the festival, which runs from Oct 22 to Nov 22, will conduct 60 per cent of its line-up of almost 50 programmes online. But the restrictions have not dampened enthusiasm for the festival, which has drawn 110 Singaporean and French partners to the festival which began in 2007.
There will be virtual music collaborations, including the festival's grand finale featuring the Orchestre National d'Île-de-France (National Orchestra of Paris Region), conducted by Singaporean Wong Kah Chun. The orchestra will play a programme of works by French composers, including Claude Debussy and Cesar Franck, with Singaporean musicians using technology by French classical music start-up NomadPlay.
Film fans can expect 28 films on offer in theatres and online for the French Film Festival from Nov 6 to 22, some of which have yet to debut in France.
For real-life engagement, head to Gardens by the Bay for an eye-popping virtual reality experience, A Virtual Voyage Through Masterpieces. You can walk into works of art such as Claude Monet's famed Water Lilies as well as masterworks by other painters such as Paul Gauguin and Edouard Manet.
Plant lovers should also look out for the Gardens, Plants And Spices exhibition at the Botanic Gardens from Nov 21 to Jan 10. Created in collaboration with famed French garden designer Pascal Garbe, this display explores the links between tropical spices and French art de vivre. Three Michelin-starred chef Anne-Sophie Pic will join Garbe and art historian Paul Paradis on a digital panel discussing these connections on Nov 21.
What: vOilah! France Singapore Festival
When: Oct 22 to Nov 22
Where: Various venues
French cuisine is also highlighted in the festival. Tiong Bahru Bakery is presenting a French twist on a local breakfast - a kaya croissant - for a limited period. Three Michelin-starred French restaurant Odette's chef Julien Royer has created a Le Paris-Brest-Singapour, which incorporates local flavours of gula melaka, coconut and a rich kaya cream into the classic French dessert. Avid bakers who wish to learn the secrets of these creations can attend online classes.
Other food events include a garden food tour and workshop by Open Farm Community as well as classes by Singaporean sommelier Gerald Lu and chef Justin Quek.
This article has been edited for clarity.