La Fête du Lac d’Annecy is a standard stop in our annual summer road trip. The ambiance of the city, the people and the amazing shows have made this an unforgettable experience from the beginning.

The origin of this buzzing festival goes way back in time, during the annexation of the Savoy to France. In the year 1860 the emperor Napoleon III came to watch the festivities in honour of this annexation. This was the start of the Fête du Lac, of course a little bit different from the festival we know nowadays. Starting from the 1960s the festival has become the pyrotechnical touristic attraction it is today.

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With a duration around 70 minutes it is one of the largest fireworks displays in Europe. The show has different aspects, such as a pyromusical, music, story-telling, fountains and coloured lights. The surroundings of Annecy are beautiful with great views on the lake and mountains, which gives the show an amazing natural decor. The spectacle can be compared to the outdoor version of a theatre show. Therefore the area around the lake is completely fenced off, one has to buy a ticket to get a good view at the spectacle. Tickets can be bought for fields, tribunes and chairs, varying in price. Every year around 40,000 tickets are sold. Over another 150,000 people watch the spectacle from the surrounding boats, hills, mountains and shores.

The lake of Annecy is well-known for its purity, it is said to be one of the cleanest lakes of Europe. One can imagine the amount of firework waste after such a festival, which will lead to a significant pollution of the lake. Each year, the day after the festival, the city services clean the surface of the lake with nets before a specialized team of divers from Le Club Subaquatique Annecy take over for a full cleanse of the lake.

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Each year the show is build up around a different theme. The theme of this years’ festival was ‘Les Toiles de Feux’, which can be translated as ‘Works of Fire’. The idea was to show 21 great painters and their masterpieces split up in 5 themes. Well-known artists as Botticelli, Van Gogh and Picasso were announced, but what was the thought behind this theme? Is the purpose to show their great paintings in fireworks? The thoughts of the artists? The most common streams in art?

Each year the show is build up around a different theme. The theme of this years’ festival was ‘Les Toiles de Feux’, which can be translated as ‘Works of Fire’. The idea was to show 21 great painters and their masterpieces split up in 5 themes. Well-known artists as Botticelli, Van Gogh and Picasso were announced, but what was the thought behind this theme? Is the purpose to show their great paintings in fireworks? The thoughts of the artists? The most common streams in art?

Fabio Pavanetto shows the eye-shaped shooting area

Parente Fireworks had this years’ honour and created the idea to build a show around painters and to make a theme out of it. According to the Project Manager it was a complicated theme, but one they had thought of and chosen themselves. They wanted the spectators to experience the thoughts and ideas of the painters when creating their masterpieces, not the paintings itself. The best way to express their idea behind the show is to think: ‘What would Picasso do if he would be a pyrotechnicus in this age?’ He showed the plan of the show which perfectly showed the thought behind the spectacle. The pontoons were located in the shape of an eye, almond shaped, with a smaller inner circle as an iris. This might not be fully visible for the audience but it expresses the passion and thoughts of Parente when creating this show. They looked into the eyes of the art, to share in their emotions, feelings and thoughts. A beautiful way to create an amazing show.

In order to create this eye-shaped form 60 pontoons were used, differentiated into smaller ones with candles and large pontoons with shells. The first thing that pops out from the set-up is the enormous amount of candles used at all positions of the show. The pontoon at the middle position, the ‘iris’ of the eye, has an ever bigger amount of candles in 360⁰. Since the front is 650 meters wide a spectacular view is created, and because of the candles the public can also see all the circles of the eye. For all those candles and shells around 300 modules have been used, from a wireless system developed by Parente.

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Creating this show took an enormous amount of time. The actual building of the show on-site takes around five days with a big, international, team. However, creating and elaborating the idea of this show and the actual creation takes around a year. This is imaginable since the start is to create and present a plan to the council of Annecy in order to get the show, and then the complete elaboration of the show in detail and the logistical processes have to be managed.

PyrotechnicMagazine_#3_FeteduLac_Annecy_16During the show, the people that control the fireworks, lights, flamethrowers, fountains and music are located in a little cabin at the front of the lake. Besides the 14.000 pieces of fireworks, there are also 22 points with colored lights, 60 flamethrowers and 48 water jets used. The cabin is very overwhelming with uncountable tiny little buttons for mastering all those aspects. Obviously, in order to get the perfect timing they all have to work closely together.

The idea to show the thoughts of the painters and the actual elaboration in fireworks was very visible in the spectacle. For example, one of the paintings from the third theme about details was ´La Classe de Danse´ from Edgar Degas. This painting is about the obsession of movement and body position in space, the reason to dance and move, to comfort ourselves by letting go in a dance. The music used for this section was the Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a from Tchaïkovski, which is a very precise and detailed composition that transports you to a complete different world, where you can feel everything moving around. It transfers you to the ballet class as painted by Degas, you can feel his emotions. The pyrotechnical composition takes you to the mind of Degas, starting with showing some ballet dancers with their ‘tutu’s’, shaped by many roman candles in 360⁰ and crossettes showing the movements of their bodies. The single shots that go round the front give the feeling of a group of ballet dancers in symphony and canon, with their pirouettes showed by the tourbillons. It is almost like you are standing in the same classroom as Degas in his mind.

During the show, the people that control the fireworks, lights, flamethrowers, fountains and music are located in a little cabin at the front of the lake. Besides the 14.000 pieces of fireworks, there are also 22 points with colored lights, 60 flamethrowers and 48 water jets used. The cabin is very overwhelming with uncountable tiny little buttons for mastering all those aspects. Obviously, in order to get the perfect timing they all have to work closely together.

The idea to show the thoughts of the painters and the actual elaboration in fireworks was very visible in the spectacle. For example, one of the paintings from the third theme about details was ´La Classe de Danse´ from Edgar Degas. This painting is about the obsession of movement and body position in space, the reason to dance and move, to comfort ourselves by letting go in a dance. The music used for this section was the Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a from Tchaïkovski, which is a very precise and detailed composition that transports you to a complete different world, where you can feel everything moving around. It transfers you to the ballet class as painted by Degas, you can feel his emotions. The pyrotechnical composition takes you to the mind of Degas, starting with showing some ballet dancers with their ‘tutu’s’, shaped by many roman candles in 360⁰ and crossettes showing the movements of their bodies. The single shots that go round the front give the feeling of a group of ballet dancers in symphony and canon, with their pirouettes showed by the tourbillons. It is almost like you are standing in the same classroom as Degas in his mind.

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During the fourth theme, about love, the painting ‘The Kiss’ from Gustav Klimt was showed. This painting is about the effects of love such as spiritual and sensual fusion and forgetting of all conflicts between sexes. Gustav Klimt wanted to show true sensuality, both self-giving and withdrawing at the same time. The music used was ‘La Vie en Rose’ by Edith Piaf and Andrea Bocelli, which is a perfect match with the painting because literally this song is about looking at life through pink glasses, with love as the main important factor. This can be seen in the pyrotechnical composition by the interplay between, for example, glittering candles and shells, that merge smoothly with candles as the more submissive factor (feminine withdrawal) and of the shells (male sensuality). Also, the middle position (the ‘iris’ of the eye) has been used a lot since love is portrayed to play a central role. In the final part of the song the high candles, that go fully round, merge and surrender with and to the shells, as a fusion and complete surrender in love.

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Another painting with excellent pyrotechnical composition can be found in the fifth theme about history. The painter is Eugène Delacroix, who created ‘La Liberté Guidant le Peuple’. This is literally translated as ‘Liberty leads the people’. Delacroix wanted to show that during the war, not only the heroes were the ones that lead to victory, but every single person from the ‘normal’ people of the French Republic. He wanted to show the ideas from the republic: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The music used is ‘Garador’s Flight’ from Jo Blankenburg, which basically represents the sound of victory. The pyrotechnical composition is shaped in the French flag, blue white and red, which gives the feeling of the French ideals and standards. Shells with crackling effects make sure you get the feeling of the war, and the circled candles take over as the common people welcome the victory of the French Republic.

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Besides those three compositions there were many more beautiful and artistic paintings showed. The closing-down piece of the show, that has its own theme ‘ecstasy’, is ‘The Last Judgment’ from Michel-Ange. This piece is the big finale of life, the climax where everything has been done and becomes eternal, assisted by the musical piece ‘On earth as it is in Heaven’ by Ennio Morricone. A true combination for a big finale. The finale brought you in ecstasy by an overwhelming amount of golden shells, mines and candles shot from every pontoon in the water. An ending of a spectacle that stays with you forever.

Click on this link (https://vimeo.com/105329854) for the video, which shows the highlights of the show. Unfortunately, due to heavy rain and wind the photos and video are not optimal.

A special thank you to Antonio Parente and Fabio Pavanetto for their hospitality and willingness to show and explain everything about their version of la Fête du Lac 2014.