Festival in Focus 2018

Celebrate Culture! Celebrate the heritage of today! Build the heritage of tomorrow!

EFA members are the core of our Association. Your work is pioneering in the international artistic life. We would like to invite you to be one of EFA’s next ‘Festival in Focus’. What does this mean?

All EFA Members are contributing to Europe’s artistic life for decades. Arts Festivals have inspired the artistic discourse and reflected the social and historical turning points in Europe’s last and current century. The very particular value festivals can give to people’s daily lives is immeasurable.

That is what we want to show to the broad public with a new initiative: EFA Festival in Focus.

 We would like to invite festival colleagues and visitors of EFA’s communication channels to look into your historical and current role in your city, your region and in your environment and bring it into an international and historical perspective.

 For that, we are setting up a series of interviews, conducted by writer and broadcaster Simon Mundy.

Mersin International Music Festival | Turkey

Mersin International Music Festival | Mersin | Turkey

This is a festival that is a product of its city's contradictions – or rather the contradictions that arise when the different cities of several millennia are pulled together in one modern metropolis, in this case Mersin, the largest port conurbation, formed from a collection of townships on Turkey's Southern coast that date back to the Hittites and beyond. At a point that one might describe as the centre of its history there were the great glory years of Tarsus, the ancient capital of Cilicia where Anthony first met and plotted with Cleopatra, which Paul who became a Saint called his home town, and where Julian, the last Pagan Emperor of the Roman East, was buried. Read the full article.

Festival della Valle d'Itria | Italy

Festival della Valle d'Itria | Martina Franca | Italy

The expectation for opera festivals in Italy is that everything will be big; big egos, famous names, audiences who come to show off their costume jewellery, sets out of a Visconti film – and at least one Roman amphitheatre in a tourist hot spot. The Valle D'Itria Festival lives up to none of these expectations. Read the full article. 

Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival | Poland

Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival | Warsaw | Poland

Warsaw might be thought a strange place to start a Spring festival in honour of Beethoven. There seems, on the face of it, to be no connection – other than the fact that there is no city in the world that would not benefit from a concentrated annual dose of his music. The answer is simple enough. It did not start there. It started further south in Krakow, seven years before. Read the full article.

Usedom Festival | Germany & Poland

Usedom Festival | Usedom Island | Germany & Poland

Even those who know the Baltic reasonably well will, I suspect, find it hard to place the island of Usedom immediately. For those as baffled as I was until recently, Usedom is a long sandy island which effectively blocks the mouth of the River Oder. The western two thirds are in Germany, the eastern portion in Poland. It’s a place of long beaches and old piers in seaside resorts fashionable in the Kaiser's time.  It takes an hour and a half to drive from one end to the other. The largest population centre is actually on the Polish side; the old seaside resort and important port city of Swinoujscie which also serves Szczecin up river. Read the full article.

Edinburgh International Festival | Scotland

Edinburgh International Festival | Scotland

After all the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh International Festival last year (during which it was awarded the EFFE Special Award), the 2018 programme has something of the feel of getting back to normal. It is also Fergus Linehan's fourth year in charge and so can now truly be said to be his own vision. “It's lighter,” he says, after the serious matters of recovering from war addressed during the 70th year, “for a start we have three comic operas.” Read the full article.

Flanders Festival Ghent | Belgium

Flanders Festival Ghent | Belgium

The concept of the Flanders Festival is sometimes hard for outsiders to grasp but perhaps the best way to explain it is to compare it to Belgium itself – a federal structure with each part having its own role, speciality and tradition. The festival migrates from Flemish city to city like an itinerant friar, stopping for a few weeks in each for a different flavour of art and ale. Only in recent years, under the auspices of the current EFA President, Jan Briers, has the Flanders Festival reached its present form. Read the full article

OdeGand, WouterRawoens. Flanders Festival Ghent

George Enescu International Festival | Romania

George Enescu International Festival | Romania

On the face of it the Enescu Festival, which has been held since 1950, should be easy to describe – an awful lot of music in a short space of time, played by some of the world's greatest orchestras. The more you look at it, however, the more extraordinary it becomes.

For a start, it is mainly in Bucharest. The capital of Romania can be said to have had a great 19th century, a disastrous 20th and only now, in the second decade of the 21st, can it be said to be coming back to its status in 1900 as one of Europe's most interesting and attractive cities.

The fortunes of the festival inevitably have followed the politics. It began in the years when the communist regime was new. It reached its first peak in the years when Romania was a semi-detached member of the Soviet bloc and so was more open to Western artists than most Eastern European countries. Only the Yugoslav festivals were able to present the finest musicians from both blocs in the same way. Read the full article. 

Budapest Spring Festival & CAFe Budapest | Hungary

Budapest Spring Festival & CAFe Budapest | Hungary

When the Budapest Spring Festival started in 1981 (perhaps mirroring the other great music festival of Communist Europe, the Prague Spring) relationships across the Iron Curtain were at one of their lowest points. Russia's leaders were geriatric and had invaded Afghanistan – not the first or last to make that mistake – the US had dumped the amiable Jimmy Carter in favour of the equally amiable but more belligerent Ronald Reagan, egged on by the fierce Mrs. Thatcher in Britain, and everybody was facing economic recession. Read full article.

Dubrovnik Summer Festival | Croatia

Dubrovnik Summer Festival | Dubrovnik | Croatia

The Republic of Ragusa was one of the great city states of mediaeval and Renaissance Europe, maintaining its independence through clever diplomacy for half a millennium and preventing Venice or the Ottomans from completely dominating the Adriatic. It valued liberty very highly, demonstrating it by being one of the first places in the world to formerly abolish slavery, in 1418, and incorporating the word into its flag. Like Monaco it was overshadowed by cliffs behind it and looked to the sea for all its wealth. Even its name looked two ways. Ragusa (not to be confused with its namesake in Sicily) was what you called it if you arrived as a trader from the rest of the Mediterranean, Dubrovnik – the city by the water – if you were a Slav making your way overland. Read full article.

Mittelfest | Italy

Mittelfest | Cividale del Friuli | Italy

Forgive us if this portrait of Mittelfest is as much about politics, modern and ancient, as about festival programming – for the point of connection between arts and the big political techtonics of our times is the territory that the festival explores. These days the town of Cividale del Friuli nestles against Italy's border with Slovenia but it has watched such frontiers come and go over twenty-one centuries, since Julius Caesar founded it in his own name as Forum Iulii – a meeting place between the Italian peninsula and the Transalpine, Pannonian and Illyrian peoples to the north and east. Not much has altered, for it is exactly that confluence that Mittelfest has been celebrating for the last twenty-seven years. Read the full article.

Leoš Janáček International Music Festival | Czech Republic

Leoš Janáček International Music Festival | Ostrava, Opava, Kravaře, Hlučín, Ludgeřovice, Bohumín, Hukvaldy, Frýdek Místek | Moravia and Silesia, Czech Republic

The Janáček Festival (which is what I am going to call it: the alternative is either very long or an acronym not much better – LJIMF) is both very new and very old. 2018 sees a bunch of anniversaries and also signals a new start. The first anniversary is a national one – the centenary of the emergence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire of Moravia, Bohemia and Slovakia to form Czechoslovakia. The second is melancholy – ninety years since the death of Janáček, the new country's best known composer after Dvorak and Smetana. The third is festive – seventy years since the Janáček Music Lachia Festival was started in the composer's home district, centred on the village of Hukvaldy where he was born. In the nation, only Bohemia's Prague Spring Festival is older. Read the full article.

Castell de Peralada International Music Festival | Spain

Castell de Peralada International Music Festival | Peralada | Spain

If you wanted a quiz question with the answer Peralada Festival, it could be 'what links Montserrat Caballé, storks, pre-First World War cars and bottles of pink Cava?' All will become clear.

Peralada is a small Catalan town of only two thousand people between the city of Figueras and the Costa Brava. However, it makes up for its lack of population by having a large castle, which was reconstructed from its mediaeval remains in the 19th century, along with an adjacent former monastery and an area of park land. In 1923 it was bought by Miguel Mateu, the son of one of the founders of the Hispano Suiza car and engine company (its engines powered most of the early planes in the French and British air forces during World War I). Read the full article.

Europalia | Belgium

Europalia | Brussels | Belgium

Since 1969 Europalia has been presenting the rest of the world to Belgium. It runs every two years, starting in October of the odd number and finishing four months later at the end of the January in the even numbered year. It is not confined to any particular venue or even country, following the theme to wherever logic or artistic imperative takes it. “We always work with the most important venues in Belgium first,” says Koen Clement, the General Manager, “and we try to start with the venue and see how our theme fits in with their ideas – we don't impose an event like a hiring promoter.” Read full article.

Festival d’Aix-en-Provence | France

Festival d’Aix-en-Provence | Aix-en-Provence | France

“You know, there are elements of continuity. Aix is still an international opera festival in ambition, and it attracts an artistically informed audience. It seeks to renew the repertoire, to get out of artistic cliché, to use young casts, very creative directors and visual artists.”  Bernard Foccroulle. Read full article.

Festival Internacional de Teatro Clásico de Mérida | Spain

Festival Internacional de Teatro Clásico de Mérida | Mérida | Spain

In the sixty-five years since, the festival has grown and developed, not only in size but in artistic philosophy. There is plenty of Euripides, Sophocles, Plautus and Terence in Spanish translations of the original plays but the real focus is on how modern writers respond to the stories of the classical age. Read full article.

GIFT Festival | Georgia

Georgian International Festival of Arts in Honor of Michail Tumanishvili |Tbilisi | Georgia

The strands that weave the Georgia International Festival of Theatre together are big, bright and uncomfortable. They put theatre and dance firmly in a zone of argument that says an artistic question is always a political question, and one which will never be answered in platitudes. Read full article.

International Festival Sarajevo Winter | Bosnia & Herzegovina

International Festival Sarajevo Winter |  Sarajevo | Bosnia & Herzegovina

When the Winter Olympics were held in Sarajevo and its surrounding mountains in 1984 they were followed immediately by an arts festival. There is nothing unusual in that. While sadly the cultural events never get the same degree of media attention as the athletics, it has always been the case that the arts accompany the Olympic Games, sometimes as an integrated part of the city's Olympic experience, sometimes as a bit of an afterthought. For the February 2018 Games in Pyeongchan, South Korea, the province of Gangwon is said to have a budget of €40 million for a cultural programme, starting on New Year's Eve. Read full article.

Israel Festival, Jerusalem | Israel

Israel Festival, Jerusalem | Jerusalem | Israel

Founded in 1961 establishing itself as Israel's premiere multi-disciplinary international festival. The Festival takes place annually in the spring, presenting outstanding international theatre performances, contemporary dance and classical music, along with outstanding original Israeli works and open to the public street performances. Hosting leading artists from around the world and engaging emerging and established Israeli artists, the Israel Festival provides an important platform for inter-cultural encounter and dialogue. Attended by over 35,000 people the Israel Festival is one of the city’s most important cultural assets, vital to a modern, dynamic and pluralistic Jerusalem. Read the full article.

Izmir International Festival | Turkey

Izmir International Festival | Izmir, Ephesus | Turkey

The cities that lie on the western coast of Anatolia are so ancient that you have to come through an awful lot of names of kingdoms and empires before you come to modern Izmir in ingénue Turkey. Homer was probably born there, at a time when the fall of Troy a little further north was no further back than the start of the Renaissance is to us. In his age Izmir was an independent city state, rather in the shadow of the more famous Ephesus eighty kilometres to the south, which had been the capital of the kingdom of Arzawa and by Homer's time was a member of the Greek Ionian League. Then the Lydian empire came, then the Persians and eventually Alexander the Great. Read full article.

Klarafestival | Belgium

KlaraFestival | Brussels | Belgium

Some festivals stay throughout their existence much as they were at the start. Others grow but keep their basic original structure. And some evolve, mutate, have children. Then, without leaving home, the children develop distinctive characters of their own. So it is with the Flanders Festival and its offspring, Klara.

 Flanders Festival is effectively an umbrella for independent programmes held in each of northern Belgium's major cities. Every town has its specially allotted time of year but the constituent cities also collaborate with each other so that there is a network effect. For the audience there is just a solid succession of high quality events. For the organisers there is individual focus and a degree of safety in numbers. Read full article.

Ljubljana Festival | Slovenia

Ljubljana Festival | Ljubljana | Slovenia

The capital of Slovenia is one of Europe's smallest, and the population of the whole of Slovenia is a million less than that of Madrid, but Ljubljana's festival is one of the longest established and now one of the most distinguished. It is to the city's great credit that, even in the first years of communist Yugoslavia, a festival was seen as an answer to its problems, not just a decorative add-on. Read full article.

Lucerne Festival | Switzerland

Lucerne Festival | Luzern | Switzerland

For Lucerne's festival 2018 sees an impressive list of anniversaries: eighty years since it was first held, thirty since an Easter festival was introduced to complement the traditional summer one, and twenty since Michael Haefliger took the helm as Director. Each of those anniversaries tells a story. Read full article.

SoNoRo Festival | Romania

SoNoRo FestivalBucharest, Timișoara ,Cluj, Brașov | Romania

SoNoRo is a quiet festival, not just because it concentrates on chamber music, but because it does not have a big news agenda or feature film back story. It did not start as an antidote to war, or as a way of drawing world attention to a forgotten city. Read full article.