Presentation of the European Music Centre




A pan-European multi-cultural project

At Bougival, in a park especially landscaped to connect the houses of George Bizet, Pauline Viardot and Ivan Tourgueniev, a new musical and multi-cultural project, the European Music Centre (Centre Européen de Musique – CEM), designed  by Jorge Chaminé, will be created. A symbol of intense musical life in the heart of Europe, a bridge between the arts and other related disciplines, but also a place for meetings and sharing, a centre of humanist values.

Within this vast domain, which is the main component at the very core of this project, the buildings of the European Music Centre will be raised, so as to create a unique environment for the teaching of young musicians at the start of their careers.

In the wake of the estate’s rich history, starting with the artistic tradition of the Viardot-Tourgueniev-Bizet Europe of the 19th century, the CEM will be a place for the furthering of cultural exchanges centered around the traditions of European romantic music. The Centre will promote partnerships with schools and conservatories and develop student exchanges so as to become a musical “Erasmus” (European Union student exchange program) which will shine through the Region, France and Europe.

As soon as the CEM will be inaugurated, it will offer a full program of concerts, operas, conferences, master classes, which will create a vibrant musical melting pot. It will also have a research laboratory investigating the links between music, the brain and neuroscience.

It will thus constitute a cultural and scientific centre, also incorporating a cross-generational residency for international musicians, both students and retired performers, a project supported by prestigious international institutions, European and others, both from the public sector and private, with no equivalent in Europe.


The birth of the project

© CEM/Charles Chemin


In 2000, Jorge Chaminé discovered the Domaine des Frênes  (“the Domain of the Ash trees”) in Bougival, bought by Pauline Viardot, Louis Viardot and Ivan Tourgueniev in 1874. He was fascinated by the location’s beauty and persuaded by the uniquely prominent place it held in the 19th century cultural world of Europe, from the Urals (Ivan Tourgueniev), to France (Bizet) and Spain (Pauline García Viardot). As a result, he became convinced that here, a truly Grand European Project could be initiated.

Concerts, conferences and master classes were organized and conducted by Jorge Chaminé in Villa Viardot with increasing success. A musical festival was organised there in 2008, with Teresa Berganza (Spanish mezzo-soprano), « the greatest Carmen of the century » according to Karajan, giving a master class dedicated to this particular masterpiece. When she first entered Pauline García Viardot’s Villa, considering herself as Viardot’s spiritual daughter, she decided to return every year to run master classes with Jorge Chaminé.

Bougival’s and La Celle-Saint-Cloud’s mayors support as well as the various measures adopted by both departmental and regional officials made it possible to formalize the project and led to the creation of theCEM Association in 2013.


The key locations


The European Music Centre will cover an area of more than 8,000m2, including a newly constructed complex designed to be integrated into the landscaped park that extends from the Impressionists’ Hill – “La Colline des Impressionistes” – to the banks of the river Seine where Bizet’s House (“la Maison de Bizet”) is located.  The Villa Viardot, like Bizet’s house, will form an integral part of the CEM.


The house of Georges Bizet


The history of this residence is closely linked to Georges Bizet, where he lived and wrote his most famous work, Carmen, in 1874. Premiered in 1875 at the Opéra Comique of Paris, three months before the composer’s death, Carmen became one of the most famous and most performed operas in the world. In June 2017, a crowdfunding campaign was launched to safeguard Bizet’s House. Thanks to the various donations and the crucial contribution from the Yvelines Departement, Bizet’s House will be restored. Once its restoration is complete, it will include a space dedicated to the composer with a permanent exhibition of Georges Bizet’s mementoes, and will also provide a residence for artists.


© Dartagnans


The Carmen Space – Espace Carmen


On the land surrounding the Maison de Bizet, a building known as « the farm » will be transformed into the « Espace Carmen ». It will house a permanent exhibition about Carmen and will include an auditorium/multi-purpose area, a recording studio and a bookstore. Various activities will start in 2021, including regular concerts, festivals, public master classes, conferences, film, choreographic screenings and other cultural activities.




The Villa Viardot


Like a jewel jealously hidden in the heart of the Impressionists’ Hill, this delightful treasure built in 1830 following the Directory style belonged to Pauline García Viardot, an illustrious singer whom Franz Liszt called « the archimusician », sister of the Malibran (Spanish contralto and soprano) and a great figure in the European cultural life at the time. Her friends were Frédéric Chopin, George Sand, Johannes Brahms, Franz Liszt, Clara and Robert Schumann, Hector Berlioz, Richard Wagner, Camille Saint-Saëns and many others. A woman of letters and culture, she hosted a very fashionable “salon” where the most famous names of the late 19th century cultural world would gather.

Thanks to the actions undertaken by Jorge Chaminé, and with the assistance of the Bern’s Mission (program saving and valorizing french heritage), the Villa Viardot is one of the 18 sites selected to benefit from the support of the 2018 edition of « French Heritage Lottery ».

The Villa’s living areas will host musical and literary meetings, reviving the spirit of this Romantic salon. The Villa will be the residence of prominent musical personalities invited by the CEM and will also be the home to archives dedicated to the García-Viardot family. The outdoor garden theatre, located at the rear of the Villa, will be an ideal setting for summer concerts.

The restoration of Bizet’s house, of the Villa Viardot and the creation of the Carmen Space are the first step of the CEM project.




The new buildings


The new buildings of the European Music Centre will be built on the land adjacent to the Villa Viardot. They will include:

  • a high-level teaching and research centre with a large amphitheater, a library, a reception area and a cafeteria;
  • a research laboratory dedicated to studying the links between music and the brain;
  • a therapeutic and sports centre;
  • a cross-generational residence, dedicated to students of the CEM and retired musicians;
  • an agora of musical cultures.