BBC Proms: First Night opens with tribute to Nice victims

The first night of the BBC Proms has opened with a tribute to the people of Nice, in the wake of the Bastille Day attack that left at least 84 dead.

The BBC Symphony Orchestra played La Marseillaise, France’s national anthem, to a packed Royal Albert Hall.

The performance came ahead of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet overture, which was originally billed as the season opener.

Proms director David Pickard said the tribute was arranged early on Friday.

“Waking up to the tragic news this morning of the attacks in Nice I felt it was appropriate, as a mark of respect, that we open the 2016 Proms festival with a tribute to the victims,” he told BBC News.

La Marseillaise, which was adopted by French revolutionaries, is regularly sung on Bastille Day. Many people have shared performances of the song on social media today, as a show of unity with France.

Concerts in Nice this weekend, including a show by pop star Rihanna and the city’s annual jazz festival, have been called off.

Two months of Proms

Following the impromptu tribute, the first night of the Proms continues with the Romeo and Juliet overture – one of several pieces marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

Argentine cellist Sol Gabetta also makes her Proms debut with Elgar’s Concerto in E minor. Ahead of the performance, she told the BBC that playing in London was “very special” but extremely nerve-wracking.

“You can imagine how big this feels in my head, knowing that I’m in front of a public that probably knows the piece even better than I do! Many in the audience will have listened to this piece maybe 100 times.”

The 2016 Proms season will also include music by David Bowie and a Strictly Come Dancing theme night, while one event will see the festival leave its home in the Royal Albert Hall for a concert in a car park.

Elsewhere, the Proms will pay tribute to French conductor and composer Pierre Boulez, who died in January aged 90, while jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington has promised to premiere new material at his show with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra on 30 August.

Quincy Jones, Bryn Terfel and the John Wilson Orchestra will also appear, with more than 90 concerts taking place between now and the world-renowned Last Night on 10 September.

All of the concerts will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3, with 26 filmed for television or iPlayer. Television coverage will be limited to Saturday nights during the Olympic Games in August, but a week-long series of concerts will be broadcast on BBC Four immediately after the games.

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