Festivals Around the Globe
Published: May 2009
By Leslie Camhi
Cinema under the stars in Switzerland, chamber music in Rome, kabuki in New York. It's all here in T+L's guide to the best cultural festivals in Europe and across the U.S.A.
EUROPE Austria Salzburg Festival July 24-August 31; 43-662/804-5500; www.salzburgfestival.at. For the first time at this venerable festival, Baroque opera takes center stage: Purcell's King Arthur, directed by Jürgen Flimm and conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, with texts by 17th-century poet John Dryden sung in English and spoken in German. Bregenz Festival July 21-August 22; 43-5574/4076; www.bregenzerfestspiele.com. This summer the Sharks and the Jets will meet for a rumble on the floating stage at the edge of Lake Constance, in a revival of last season's wildly successful West Side Story. Also jazzing up the proceedings is this year's tribute to Kurt Weill, which includes one of his masterworks, The Seven Deadly Sins. Czech Republic Prague Spring International Festival May 12-June 3; 420-296/329-999; www.festival.cz. Prague's rich musical heritage comes alive each spring in programs that often showcase the work of Czech composers. This year you can hear Mozart's Don Giovanni performed in the theater where it received its premiere, or take in two rarely seen operas: Janácek's The Adventures of Mr. Broucek and Dvorák's folk-inspired The Devil and Kate, the comic tale of a country lass lured to hell by her love for a shepherd. France Festival d'Avignon July 3-27; www.festival-avignon.com. Berlin-based stage director Thomas Ostermeier brings his Woyzeck, playwright Georg Büchner's tale of a tragic Everyman sacrificed to society's whims, to a festival reborn after a French general strike canceled the 2003 season here and in Aix-en-Provence. Looking for a video installation in a 14th-century cloister?Some 35 works, ranging from dance to classical drama and street theater, unfold in sometimes spectacular sites, such as the Grand Courtyard of the Palais des Papes. Festival d'Aix-en-Provence July 5-31; 33-4/42-17-34-34; www.festival-aix.com. William Christie conducts the early music ensemble Les Arts Florissants in Handel's Hercules. The world premiere of Hanjo, the story of a mad geisha, based upon Yukio Mishima's modern Noh drama, with music and libretto by the contemporary composer Toshio Hosokawa, is staged by Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker. Italy The Rome Chamber Music Festival at Villa Aurelia June 15-24; www.romechamberfestival.org. On the highest of Rome's seven hills, the Villa Aurelia, home to the American Academy in Rome, inaugurates the Rome Chamber Music Festival. Violinist Robert McDuffie has scheduled a mix of works by 0ld- and new-world composers, from Haydn and Schubert to Copland and Barber. Elba, Musical Island of Europe September 2-15; 39-0565/960-157; www.elbamusic.com. A little-known but lively music festival unfolds in intimate theaters built for no less a listener than Napoleon and in an open-air arena overlooking the sea. Chief conductor and violist Yuri Bashmet leads the Moscow Soloists chamber orchestra, joined by the Kremerata Baltica (founded by Gidon Kremer) and mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirschlager, in a program that runs from Telemann to Astor Piazzolla. Switzerland Verbier Festival July 16-August 1; 41-27/771-8282; www.verbierfestival.com. High in the Swiss Alps, Verbier attracts a starry cast of soloists. James Levine conducts the Verbier Festival Youth Orchestra, with violinist Joshua Bell, pianist Martha Argerich, and baritone Thomas Quasthoff, in works by Brahms, Mahler, and Schumann. Elsewhere, Bell and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet accompany opera's current It girl, soprano Anna Netrebko, in a song recital. United Kingdom Edinburgh International Festival August 15-September 4; 44-131/473-2000; www.eif.co.uk. Fervent French Catholic poet Paul Claudel's The Satin Slipper, a seldom-performed 10-hour verse epic of impossible love, has been called the "Mount Everest of theater." Directed by Olivier Py, it's among the abundant offerings of the Edinburgh International Festival, known for embracing both classical and risk-taking productions. Meanwhile, for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (August 8-30; 44-131/226-0000; www.edfringe.com), Rhode Island high-school students will introduce a modern adaptation of Beowulf. Glyndebourne Festival May 20-August 29; 44-1273/813-813; www.glyndebourne.com. The haunting, otherworldly strains of Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande are transposed from the symbolist play by Maurice Maeterlinck, with its medieval ghost-land setting, to the 20th century in the Glyndebourne revival of director Graham Vick's ingenious and acclaimed 1999 production.
UNITED STATES Chicago Ravinia Festival June 4-September 12; 847/266-5100; www.ravinia.org. North America's oldest music festival celebrates its centenary. Kicking off the proceedings is the American premiere of South Africa's first indigenous opera, Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu, with a cast of more than 60 artists. Stephen Sondheim's homage to Seurat, Sunday in the Park with George, is the current offering in its Sondheim 75 series; and the "Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin, rocks on in two concerts. New York Lincoln Center Festival July 6-25; 212/721-6500; www.lincolncenter.org. An authentic kabuki theater constructed in Damrosch Park?The Japanese company Nakamura-za promises kabuki slapstick with The Summer Festival: A Mirror of Osaka. In addition, Nathan Lane stars as Dionysus in Sondheim's musical reworking of Aristophanes' classic The Frogs. British composer Sir John Tavener's epic merging of Eastern and Western musical idioms, The Veil of the Temple, takes over the night shift at Avery Fisher Hall, beginning at 10:30 p.m. and concluding at 5 a.m. Washington, D.C. Tennessee Williams Explored Through August 8; 800/444-1324; www.kennedy-center.org. The Kennedy Center surveys the work of the great master of sexual neurosis, Southern gothic style. Highlights include Patricia Clarkson relying upon the kindness of strangers as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire, and an evening of five one-act plays (four newly discovered), including the story of a New Orleans drag queen. Washington National Opera May 15-June 2; 800/876-7372; www.dc-opera.org. Don't miss the production of André Previn's 1998 Streetcar Named Desire. Charleston, S.C. Spoleto Festival USA May 28-June 13; 843/579-3100; www.spoletousa.org. Mikhail Baryshnikov stars in Georgian director Rezo Gabriadze's The Doctor and the Patient as a former soldier, returning to his native village, who is driven mad by his true love's betrayal. Spoleto also offers the last chance to catch the U.S. performances of the 16th-century Chinese operatic epic The Peony Pavillion. Opera Opera Theatre of Saint Louis May 22-June 27; 314/961-0644; www.experienceopera.org. The company that domesticates opera, with four productions all performed in English, is presenting quintessentially American fare: John Adams's modern classic Nixon in China. Glimmerglass Opera, Cooperstown, New York July 1-August 24; 607/547-5704; www.glimmerglass.org. Four new stagings of works just beyond the standard repertory, including Handel's penultimate opera, Imeneo, and Richard Rodney Bennett's 20th-century thriller The Mines of Sulphur. The Santa Fe Opera July 2-August 28; 800/280-4654; www.santafeopera.org. A remarkable open-air theater is the backdrop for Beatrice and Benedict, Berlioz's adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, and Bellini's La Sonnambula, in which soprano Natalie Dessay lends her dazzling coloratura to the tale of a sleepwalking orphan who sings her way back into her fiancé's heart. Performance American Dance Festival, Durham, N.C. June 10-July 24; 919/684-4444; www.americandancefestival.org. This international program of modern dance ranges from Israel's Batsheva Dance Company, to the Shen Wei Dance Arts, a new group that fuses Chinese operatic traditions with dance, theater, painting, and sculpture, to the Paul Taylor Dance Company, now celebrating its 50th season.
LESLIE CAMHI is a New York-based arts writer and cultural critic.
Locarno Film Festival, Switzerland August 4-14; www.pardo.ch. For two weeks in August, the Piazza Grande of this Italian Swiss resort town is transformed into an open-air theater, where up to 7,000 people gather each evening before one of the world's largest movie screens. The focus is on auteur and independent cinema. In addition, there are French-language film shorts and a video competition. Venice Film Festival, Italy Late August-early September; www.labiennale.org. Last year, The Return, an exquisite Russian production, grabbed the Golden Lion, creating an instant art-house classic. This year, Mira Nair's Vanity Fair (with Reese Witherspoon as Becky Sharp) may be a contender. Telluride Film Festival, United States September 3-6; www.telluridefilmfestival.com. Billed as the people's festival, Telluride remains blissfully free of the hierarchies and hysteria present at other gatherings. Cinematic gems The Crying Game and My Dinner with André had their debuts here.
Rejoyce Dublin 2004 April-August; www.rejoycedublin2004.com. Bloomsday (June 16) is traditionally a lively affair in Dublin, but this summer the city is marking the centenary of Joyce's Ulysses with a five-month-long celebration. The National Library of Irelandis exhibiting a dozen of the author's recently discovered draft notebooks; the Royal Hibernian Academy is showing "Joyce-inspired" works by artists such as Brancusi, John Cage, and Matisse; and the National College of Ireland is hosting the 19th International James Joyce Symposium.
Hay Festival May 28-June 6; www.hayfestival.com. For 10 days each spring, celebrity authors and literary groupies descend upon the tiny Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye for one of the world's largest—and most fashionable—literary fests. This year's lineup includes Chang-rae Lee, Doris Lessing, and Zadie Smith. Ian McEwan will interview John Updike, director Neil Jordan will discuss his new book Shade, and Michael Ignatieff will talk about the war on terror.
The Bicentennial of George Sand June 29-November 28; www.bicentenaire-george-sand.com. To pay tribute to novelist and proto-feminist George Sand—born 200 years ago—the Culture Ministry of France is planning a year-long series of concerts, events, and shows, including an exhibit of Sand's paintings, furniture, and jewelry at the Musée de la Vie Romantique in Paris.
Germany Moritzburg Festival August 8-22; 49-351/810-5495; www.moritzburgfestival.de. A picture- book 17th-century castle in Saxony makes a grand acoustical setting for this small-scale but world-class chamber music festival, where soloists perform works that range from the Baroque to the contemporary. The gala opening concert will be held in an equally sublime venue: Volkswagen's glass-walled factory in Dresden.
Italy Tuscan Sun Festival August 1-15; 39-0575/630-170; www.tuscansunfestival.com. For its second year, this festival in Cortona has expanded to two weeks of concerts. Highlights: soprano Renée Fleming and cellist Nina Kotova collaborate with conductor Antonio Pappano and soloists of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes offers an all-Schubert program. Rossini Opera Festival August 6-20; 39-0721/380-0294; www.rossinioperafestival.it. The comic melodrama Matilde di Shabran is one of three rarely staged operas by Rossini getting a fresh hearing in Pesaro, the composer's hometown on the Adriatic coast, and will star the tenor sensation Juan Diego Fl&ocaute;rez.
Russia Stars of the White Nights Festival May 30-July 18; www.mariinsky.ru/en. A critically acclaimed production of Wagner's Ring cycle, created by artistic director and conductor Valery Gergiev and designer George Tsypin, takes center stage June 10-15. Mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina (in Samson et Dalilah), and soprano Anna Netrebko (in La traviata), are two of the Kirov Opera-bred artists that return to appear in more than 20 opera productions. To mark the centenary of George Balanchine, the Kirov Ballet presents a multi-evening tribute to the American choreographer, who was born in St. Petersburg.
California Music at Menlo July 29-August 15; 650/725-2787; www.musicatmenlo.org. Silicon Valley's premier chamber music festival, in its second season, has a distinguished roster of participating artists, led by pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel, and at least one remarkable venue: the Stent Family Hall at Menlo School. The fresh programming showcases musical periods of rich musical creativity of five regions, including France—from Debussy to Dutilleux—and Eastern Europe.
Colorado The Aspen Music Festival June 22-August 22; 970/925-9042; www.aspenmusicfestival.com. This nine-week festival inaugurates a series of concerts organized around a single theme. "Forbidden Music: Silenced Voices," devoted to World War II-era European composers whose works were suppressed, includes Viktor Ullmann's seldom heard Piano Concerto, conducted by James Conlon and performed by Christopher Taylor. Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival June 27-August 4; 970/827-5700; www.vailmusicfestival.org. Vail and neighboring Beaver Creek are the settings for concerts by a triumvirate of orchestras: the Rochester Philharmonic, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic.
Massachusetts Tanglewood July 1-September 5; 888/266-1200; www.bso.org. The Mark Morris Dance Group opens the season on July 1, and Independence Day weekend promises fireworks, with jazz singer and pianist Diana Krall and a live broadcast by Garrison Keillor. Seiji Ozawa, former music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, returns to conduct an evening of works ranging from Chopin to Bernstein to Takemitsu in the concert hall that bears his name. Williamstown Theater Festival June 23-August 28; 413/597-3400; www.WTFestival.org. New stagings of classics by Noel Coward (Design for Living) and Chekhov (The Cherry Orchard), as well as world premieres of plays by authors, including Theresa Rebeck and Terrence McNally, help celebrate the festival's 50th anniversary. Jacob's Pillow June 19-August 29; 431/243-0749; www.jacobspillow.org. Leading international dance troupes, Compañía Nacional de Danza 2: Dances by Nacho Duato (Spain), New Danish Dance Theatre, and the Lakshmi Vishwanathan Dancers and Musicians (India) appear alongside modern dance and ballet companies from throughout the Americas. Programs for children and families—some of them free—take place throughout the summer.
New York BAM May 28-June 13; 718/636-4100; www.bam.org. Especially diverse programming closes the spring season at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Not to be missed: the return of the Comédie-Française and its staging of Le malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid) by Molière; the world premiere of Seven Visions by the Mark Morris Dance Group, set to jazz performed by the Bad Plus; and DanceAfrica 2004, a celebration of African and African-American dance and music, featuring companies from Ghana to New Orleans and New York. Caramoor International Music Festival June 26-August 14; 914/232-1252; www.caramoor.org. Less than an hour from New York City, but a world away, two open-air theaters amidst 90 acres of gardens and parks provide the settings for classical music and jazz concerts. Audiences have come to expect the unexpected: this year, the U.S. premiere of the Baroque rarity Don Quixote in Sierra Morena, by Francesco Conti, one of three staged operas, plus programs devoted to Czech classical music and Count Basie. Mostly Mozart Festival July 29-August 28; 212/875-5766; www.lincolncenter.org. In its 38th season, the venerable Lincoln Center festival seems born anew under its music director Louis Langrée, who returns for his second season. Late-night performances, world music, and film (of pianists playing Mozart) are added to chamber and orchestral concerts; Mozart's opera about affairs of the light of heart Così fan tutte, directed by Jonathan Miller; and modern dance, including an appearance by avant-garde Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's troupe Ensemble Rosas.
The Stratford Festival of Canada April 17-November 7; 519/271-4040; www.stratford-festival.on.ca. Acclaimed productions of Shakespeare remain the core of this seven-month long theater festival, which this year features six new stagings of the Bard's work, from Midsummer Night's Dream to King John. But the wide-ranging program also includes world premieres by young Canadian dramatists, as well as rarely performed classics such as Cocteau's The Human Voice and toe-tapping musicals like Guys and Dolls.
Newport Jazz Festival August 11-15; 866/468-7619; www.festivalproductions.net. The grandfather of all jazz festivals celebrates its 50th anniversary this year with tributes to jazz legends Dizzy Gillespe and Sarah Vaughn by the stars of today, Herbie Hancock and Dianne Reeves. Montreal International Jazz Festival June 30-July 11; 514/523-3378; www.montrealjazzfest.com. With 500 performances in 12 days-including 375 free outdoor concerts-there's plenty to listen to and see. The eclectic lineup includes K.D. Lang with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, 76-year-old Cuban singer Ibrahim Ferrer, and blues rockers Colin James and George Thorogood on a double bill. Jazz in Marciac August 1-15; 33-5/62-09-33-33; www.jazzinmarciac.com. For two weeks in August, thousands of jazz aficionados descend on this tiny medieval town in southwestern France (pop. 1,200) for world-class performances by boldface names: this year's artists include singers Cesaria Evora, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Bobby McFerrin; pianist Brad Mehldau; the Chucho Valdes Sextet; and the Wynton Marsalis Quartet.