Ljubljana Festival 2015: At the heart of your summer experience
22 June 2015
The Slovenian capital is gearing up for a long, hot and colourful summer, jam packed with cultural events. The 63rd Ljubljana Festival – the oldest and most important festival in the region – will be the longest ever. In a period of just over three months, the festival will host numerous renowned Slovenian and foreign artists from the spheres of music, opera, dance, musicals, theatre and art. The Ljubljana Festival's official inauguration will be held on 28 June at Kongresni Trg (Congress Square), a beautiful place surrounded by historic buildings and Park Zvezda (Star Park) which offers a spectacular view of Ljubljanski Grad (the Ljubljana Castle). The opening event will be a musical and visual spectacle conducted by the Academy Award winning Chinese conductor, Tan Dun. However, as a prelude to the summer festival, the Ljubljana Festival hosted one of the most successful musicals of all time – Mamma Mia! – from 15 to 19 June.
The Ljubljana Festival will be offering three more musical highlights: the Polish Requiem, conducted by one of Poland’s greatest conductors and composers, the 81-year-old Krzysztof Penderecki, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta, as well as the German Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Jonathan Nott, who will be bringing the festival to a close on 28 September. Elīna Garanča and Željko Lučić will hold evening concerts of opera arias, the China National Opera House from Beijing will perform Puccini’s Turandot, while the Sofia National Opera and Ballet will stage Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. Returning to the Ljubljana Festival is Saint Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre; this time, the whole complement will be performing the Romeo and Juliet ballet score. The festival is also proud to host the world-renowned choreographer Edward Clug and an international dance performance, co-produced by the Slovenian EnKnapGroup ensemble. This year’s programme features no less than two musicals. Apart from the already mentioned Mamma Mia!, there is the reprise of the highly successful Slovenian musical Cvetje v Jeseni (Blossom in the Fall). Tomaž Pandur, one of Slovenia’s best known directors, will be presenting his new theatre project, the famous story of Faust, the man who sold his soul to the Devil.
The programme of the 63rd Ljubljana Festival further includes the State Chamber Orchestra of the Republic of Belarus, the Hover State Chamber Choir of Armenia, pianists Nikolai Lugansky, Dalibor Miklavčič and Tina Mauko, violinist Lana Trotovšek, the 2Cellos duo and other artists. The 18 International Fine Arts Colony and creativity workshops for children will also be taking place.
Composers for the 21st century
This year the Ljubljana Festival is the only summer festival in Europe to host three prominent composers. They are composers who helped create the international musical arena from the second half of the 20th century onwards.
Chinese composer and conductor Tan Dun has won numerous prestigious awards for his musical achievements, chief among these being the Academy Award for Best Original Score for Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which he received in 2001. That same year, he was nominated for a Golden Globe, and he won a Grammy for his film score the following year. Tan Dun’s film scores for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero and The Banquet resulted in a cycle known as the Martial Arts Trilogy which will be performed at the 63rd Ljubljana Festival's official inauguration on 28 June. Taking place at Kongresni Trg (Congress Square), the event will be conducted by Tan Dun and will feature a spectacular video display of scenes from the three films. The performers include the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestra of Fondazione Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi of Trieste.
We are very pleased that the Ljubljana Festival will be returning once again to the Piazza dell'Unità d'Italia (Unity of Italy Square), the main square in Trieste, Italy, with a magnificent concert and a message of friendship between peoples and good neighbourly relations. On the eve of the official inauguration of the Ljubljana Festival, Trieste will therefore be hosting Tan Dun and his Martial Arts Trilogy and run the same programme as for Ljubljana.
The 81-year-old Krzysztof Penderecki is a composer, conductor and academician. He has won numerous awards, including three Grammys, and is considered a pioneer of modern music and an explorer of new ways of expression of musical instruments and the human voice. The Guardian has called him Poland's greatest living composer. In Ljubljana, on 6 July, he will be presenting the Polish Requiem, one of his best known works.
Sofia Gubaidulina is considered one of the greatest Russian composers since Dmitri Shostakovich. We met up with her at the debut performance of her composition for flute (including bass flute), clarinet (including bass clarinet) and string orchestra, titled Warum? (Why?) at last year's Ljubljana Festival in Slovenia. This year, her Concerto for Viola and Orchestra will feature in the closing event of the Ljubljana Festival.
Orchestra and choir performances
The German Youth Philharmonic Orchestra (Junge Deutsche Philharmonie) will bring the festival to a close on 28 September. In addition to Gubaidulina’s concerto, its performance will include Symphony No. 9 in D minor by Anton Bruckner. Members of the German Youth Philharmonic Orchestra are highly talented young musicians who studied at prominent music academies of the German-speaking area. Their programme largely features modern pieces. The conductor and artistic advisor of the German Youth Philharmonic Orchestra is Jonathan Nott, who is also the main conductor of the Bamberg Symphonic Orchestra, the musical director of the Tokyo Symphonic Orchestra and was recently appointed as the musical and artistic director of Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (Orchestra of French-speaking Switzerland).
The Ljubljana Festival will host one more famous conductor, Zubin Mehta, who has been working together with the renowned Berlin and Vienna philharmonic orchestras for over 50 years and is the Music Director for Life of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Mehta will be performing with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in Ljubljana on 24 August. In addition to his many honours and awards, Mehta now also has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
A former violinist and the winner of several international violin competitions, Yevgeny Bushkov has held the baton for numerous prominent Russian orchestras, having performed frequently in Asia and South America. He is returning to Ljubljana on 7 July with the State Chamber Orchestra of the Republic of Belarus.
The Slovene Philharmonic String Chamber Orchestra will be holding a number of concerts, both at the Philharmonic Hall and in the Križevniška church. Distinguished guests include the young and internationally renowned Slovene violinist Lana Trotovšek (29 July), who, at the request of Tan Dun, will also perform as soloist at the official inauguration of the 63rd Ljubljana Festival.
Nikolai Lugansky is a talented Russian pianist and well on his way to becoming an artist of exceptional renown, like Boris Berezovsky, a previous guest at the Ljubljana Festival. In 1994, when Lugansky won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, the media had the following to say about him: "A true musical shock. Nobody could imagine that the soul of this unpretentious, modest young man, with his ascetic, but also poetic appearance, held such a volcano inside with inspired and resolute control.” Today, as well as being one of the world's greatest pianists, Lugansky also enjoys chess, sports, reading and is a devoted family man, a husband and a father of three children.
He will be performing twice in Ljubljana. His first concert will be with the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of Uroš Lajovic, on 20 July. His second will be a solo concert on 21 July, featuring the works of Schubert and Tchaikovsky.
Dalibor Miklavčič is another outstanding pianist. Delo, Slovenia’s leading daily newspaper, once had the following to say about him on its website: "British critics were fascinated by the dexterity of Dalibor Miklavčič’s ankles.” And rightly so, because Miklavčič is one of the few pianists to have mastered the pedal piano, the instrument played by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In Ljubljana, on 22 July, Miklavčič will present the world premiere of reconstructed originals of Mozart’s and Gounod’s compositions for the pedal piano.
Tina Mauko, a young Slovenian pianist, will stage an original musical performance, titled Marija Magdalena, at the Križevniška church on 12 August.
Evening concerts of opera arias
After her incredible performance last year at the Gallusova dvorana (Gallus Hall) in Cankarjev Dom (Cankar Hall), Slovenia's main cultural centre, she received a standing ovation; now, the outstanding mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča is returning to Ljubljana this year with a concert of opera arias. On this occasion, the RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra will again be under the baton of Karel Mark Chichon (8 July).
Significant interest is also expected for a concert of opera arias by the Serbian baritone singer Željko Lučić who is considered a highly renowned and acclaimed artist. After performing in various Serbian opera houses, Lučić won the Francesco Viñas International Solo Singers Contest in Barcelona. This achievement was followed by membership of the Frankfurt Opera, after which Lučić swiftly established an international reputation for himself, performing in the major opera houses of Europe and the United States. The famous conductor, Daniele Gatti, remarked that, alongside Diana Damrau and Piotr Beczala, Željko Lučić was synonymous with a modern Verdi, as he drew particular acclaim by portraying leading roles from Verdi’s operas.
Following his performance at Milan’s La Scala, Lučić will be stopping by in Ljubljana on 16 July, before appearing at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Accompanying Lučić on stage will be Evelin Novak, who at the age of 16 was the youngest-ever student at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz. Today, Novak is a member of the Berlin State Opera, after having been extended an invitation to join by Daniel Barenboim. The Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra will be conducted by Ivan Repušić, who is a frequent guest at German opera houses, the principal conductor of the Zadar Chamber Orchestra and an associate professor at the University of Split's Academy of Arts.
The China National Opera House from Beijing, led by conductor Yu Feng, who is also its artistic director as well as a professor and the principal conductor at China’s Central Conservatory of Music and chairman of the China Conductors’ Committee, will perform Puccini’s Turandot on 1–2 September.
These distinguished guests from the Far East will then be followed by the Sofia National Opera and Ballet, which will stage Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde on 4 September.
A summer of dancing
The Ljubljana Festival is delighted that the full complement of theMariinsky Theatre of Saint Petersburg's ensemble will be returning this year. Ljubljana will therefore be welcoming both the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra and the Mariinsky Ballet, who will perform their version of the timeless story about the star-crossed lovers of Romeo and Juliet on 13–14 July.
Also returning to Ljubljana is the outstanding internationally acclaimed Slovenian-based choreographer Edward Clug, who is otherwise active in Opera and Ballet SNT Maribor. This year he will be staging the Stabat Mater and the Requiem for 2 Chairs dance performances on 31 August.
The Phobia modern dance performance is a Slovenian-Dutch co-production and will be staged at Križanke on 7 September by the members of EnKnapGroup from Slovenia and Club Guy & Roni from the Netherlands, with music from the Dutch percussion group Slagwerk Den Haag.
The programme of the 63rd Ljubljana Festival features two reprises of the highly successful musical Blossom in the fall (7 and 9 July) which since its autumn premiere in the Križanke Theatre has been performed over 50 times. The musical was produced in Slovenia and its story is based on the eponymous popular novel by Ivan Tavčar.
The Mamma Mia! musical is co-produced by the Ljubljana Festival and the production studio of Jurij Franko, a Slovenian former alpine skier, best known for winning silver in the giant slalom at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. Directed by the Serbian director Jug Radivojević, the musical stars a number of famous Slovenian musicians and actors: Alenka Godec, Simona Vodopivec Franko, Damjana Golavšek, Lea Bartha, Gojmir Lešnjak-Gojc, Uroš Smolej, Marjan Bunič, Matjaž Kumelj. The songs featured in the musical were translated into Slovene by Tomaž Domicelj, one of Slovenia’s best known songwriters.
A theatre spectacle
Tomaž Pandur is an internationally acclaimed Slovenian director whose creative achievements are regularly the subject of critically acclaim. This year, Pandur is returning to the Ljubljana Festival with Faust, a performance based on motifs of the medieval legend of Dr Faust and Goethe’s tragic play with the same title, as well as on studies and artworks inspired by the story of the man who sold his soul to the devil. The co-creators of Pandur’s new theatre project explain that it "deals with modern people's feelings of estrangement and his need to understand himself and the world in which he lives. Through a process of alchemy, Pandur transforms Faust’s legend into an intellectual and emotional atmosphere for our times.”
The project is co-produced by the Ljubljana Festival and the SNT Drama Ljubljana, featuring Igor Samobor, Brane Šturbej, Polona Juh, Barbara Cerar, Branko Jordan, Uroš Fürst and other actors (21–23 September).
To make the summer even more relaxed
To make this year’s summer holidays at the Ljubljana Festival even more enjoyable and laid-back, there will be a concert of the popular Slovenian songs – Summer Night on 29 June – which this year is a tribute to Elza Budau, who has written in her career more than thousand texts. The event will be co-organised by the Ljubljana Festival and RTV Slovenia, and will feature a number of well-known Slovenian singers, including Nuška Drašček, Nina Strnad, Anika Horvat, Severa Gjurin, Jure Ivanušič, as well as Elda Viler and Oto Pestner as special guests.
On 30 June, Tomaž Domicelj will be presenting an original project on the 50th anniversary of the launch of his musical career, while the 2Cellos duo will be performing at Križanke on 23 July, as part of their extended international tour. The traditional concert by Vlado Kreslin will take place on 25 August. The concert by Uroš Perić, who is considered the Slovenian Ray Charles, and the Slovenian Radio and Television Big Band (Big Band RTV Slovenija), which is to take place on 28 August, has also developed into a traditional event.
Between 12–17 July, the Križanke theatre will host the 18th International Fine Arts Colony, led by the selector Tomo Vran; children will have the opportunity to put their talents to good use at free creative workshops, which will include a percussion workshop, a dance and music workshop and a small art colony. Free bookings for children can be made on the www.ljubljanafestival.si website.
Sponsors and supporters
We would like to express our gratitude to the City of Ljubljana and its mayor Zoran Janković. Without their generous support it would not have been possible to provide such a rich and diverse 3-month programme – or, as we like to put it, summer holidays at the Ljubljana Festival. We would also like to express our deepest thanks and admiration for all the help and support from our sponsors and supporters, which have helped us manage the current economic hardships and unfavourable Slovenian legislation which does little to promote investments into culture. The budget for this year’s Ljubljana Festival is EUR 2 million. It would not have been possible to invite so many distinguished artists, or provide such a high-quality programme, without the support of the City of Ljubljana, which granted EUR 1.1 million, and our sponsors who invested EUR 700,000.
Our thanks also go to the media for providing such good coverage of our events and, of course, to the countless visitors who spend their summer holidays at the Ljubljana Festival.
To conclude, we would like to invite you to the Ljubljana summer festival with the following message by Darko Brlek, the Director and Artistic Director of the Ljubljana Festival and President of the European Festivals Association: " The whole world will be joining us at the 63rd Ljubljana Festival. We hope you will join us too."