sat 03/06/2023

European Festivals 2010 Round-Up | reviews, news & interviews

European Festivals 2010 Round-Up

European Festivals 2010 Round-Up

From Sonar in Barcelona to Wexford Opera in Ireland, the unmissable clickable guide

Orange's stunning ancient theatre: 'Tosca' amid the Roman ruins, with Roberto Alagna, Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez among visiting stars, 15 July-7 August© Culturespaces/Chorégies d'Orange

istanbulIstanbul, Turkey, 3-30 June

The 38th annual music festival in the jewelled city of culture-clash continues its strong classical showing with Radu Lupu and Lang Lang, the Borodin Quartet and Riccardo Muti conducting the Vienna Philharmonic. Equally attractive is the chance to hear a lively ethnic and folkloric music programme.

Leipzig, Germany,
11-20 June

The 85th annual Bach Festival in his home town also features his two great champions Brahms and Schumann. The Gewandhaus Orchestra and Leipzig Ballet get involved in ballet to Bach by Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, Philippe Herreweghe, Riccardo Chailly, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Lynn Harrell and the LeipzigBigBand are among distinguished interpreters and the brand-new Bach Museum is a big new draw.

sonar_barcelonaSonar, Barcelona, Spain, 17-19 June

Sonar is an advanced music and multimedia festival that attracts serious dance music fans to the capital of Spanish hip. Mary Anne Hobbs DJs, performers include The Chemical Brothers, Roxy Music, Air, LCD Soundsystem and The Slew featuring Kid Koala.

Schwarzenberg, Austria, 18-27 June and 27 August-12 September

Major chamber music festival attracting the finest Lieder interpreters, this year including Bernarda Fink, Ian Bostridge, Magdalena Kozena and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and chamber music luminaries such as Alfred Brendel, Sabine Meyer and the Emerson Quartet. The Angelika Kauffmann Hall is a purpose-built new chamber music venue attracting much praise alongside a small delightful mountain village.

spoletoSpoleto, Italy, 18 June-4 July

Embraces all arts from opera and music to dance, cinema and theatre, in a variety of venues around this gorgeous town, including palaces and piazzas. Italy’s most glamorous people turn up and the increasingly international programme this year includes Robert Wilson and Rufus Wainwright collaborating on Shakespeare sonnets, Hans Werner Henze opera, Italians staging Alan Ayckbourn’s Norman Conquests, and a feature on choreographer John Neumeier by Hamburg Ballet.

Zurich, Switzerland, 18 June-11 July

Richard Strauss’s Salome is a Swiss festival favourite this year - Zurich Opera’s premiere, conducted by Christoph von Dohnányi, stars Gun-Brit Barkmin, and is the backbone of a varied multi-arts programme in the Swiss town including Sasha Waltz modern dance, a dance-theatre production of Peeping Tom, and an exhibition of Bhutan sacred art. Venues include the Opera House, concert halls and the open air.

verona_arenaVerona, Italy, 18 June-29 August

Opera doesn’t come bigger than spectacular arena opera productions by this year’s featured maestro Franco Zeffirelli: Turandot (with veteran superstar Maria Guleghina and part of the run conducted by Placido Domingo), Aida (conducted by Daniel Oren), Madama Butterfly, Carmen (casts include Anita Rachvelishvili and Marcelo Alvarez) and Il Trovatore (Alvarez and Dmitri Hvorostovsky are cast).

Fête de la Musique, Paris, France,
21 June

Same day every year, Paris opens its streets, stages, hospitals and prisons to any and all musicians in a huge all-day free music fête. All concerts and events on the day are free, and include performances by the largest and most famous institutions as well as amateurs. Now in its 29th year, it was (characteristically) started by the French government as a social act of culture.

Athens and Epidauros, Greece, 26 June-12 September

Despite the Greek financial collapse, the Acropolis and the Epidauros amphitheatre continue annually to be decorated with mouthwatering contemporary and classical arts: this summer Sophocles and Aristophanes in Epidauros, William Christie and Les Arts Florissants with the Trisha Brown Dance company in Rameau, a new Greek Opera staging of Parsifal, the Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal, Isabelle Huppert in A Streetcar Named Desire (a French revision), Gustav Dudamel with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra, Sarah Lucas, Demis Roussos and New York City Ballet stars among them.

Aix-en-Provence, France, 26 June-21 July

International classical music festival in gorgeous Aix venues inside and out includes baritone Matthias Goerne, Trisha Brown dance, a new Don Giovanni produced by Russian riser Dmitri Tcherniakov with Bo Skovhus, Christof Loy stages and Ivor Bolton conducts a new Gluck’s Alceste with Veronique Gens, Robert Lepage stages Stravinsky’s The Nightingale with puppets, and a concert of Malian-French music played by Ballaké Sissoko (kora), Guillaume Orti (saxophone) and Andy Elmer (organ).

Rock Werchter, Belgium, 1-4 July

One of Europe's Glasto equivalents, this year headlined by Prince on one of his three European festival dates. Also Faithless, Muse, Stereophonics, The Specials, Corinne Bailey Rae, Florence + The Machine, Pearl Jam, Vampire Weekend, Shameboy and so on and on.

Roskilde, Denmark, 1-4 July

Another European Glasto, running since 1971, but mashed on the messageboards by the controversial decision this year to ban brought-in beverages. This year headlined by Prince again, Gorillaz, Jack Johnson, Muse, Patti Smith, The Prodigy, Them Crooked Vultures and Danish act Nephew.

Savonlinna, Finland, 2-31 July

A grand opera festival in the Finnish lake district, founded in 1912 and set inside the magnificent 15th-century St Olaf's Castle on Lake Saimaa, this year including Tosca, Madama Butterfly, Lucia di Lammermoor (with Eglise Gutierrez), Carmen, Figaro and Elektra (with Katarina Dalayman). Concerts by Elina Garanca among others, and an international singing competition with the Royal Opera’s Elaine Padmore among the judges.

Angelique_KidjoMontreux, Switzerland, 2-17 July

The renowned Montreux Jazz festival makes its 44th appearance. Katie Melua, Air, Angelique Kidjo (pictured), Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, Missy Elliott, Roxy Music and even Petula Clark at this Lake Geneva mecca for music, where free stages increasingly compete for fans attention with the major-league concerts.

Avignon, France, 7-27 July

Booking opens 14 June for this modish French arts festival, founded in 1947 to showcase contemporary art in ancient settings. This year offering strong contemporary French theatre and literature, French Shakespeare (Richard II) and an impressive contemporary dance programme, including Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Alain Platel and Boris Charmatz. The venues include chapels, cloisters and above all the Pope’s Palace.

Novi Sad, Serbia,
8-11 July

EXIT Festival was started by rebellious uni students in protest against Milosevic, and is now a huge, laid-back rock festival in the grounds of the Petrovaradin fortress on the Danube. Headlined with Mika, The Chemical Brothers, Faith No More and Missy Elliott

Benicassim, Spain, 15-18 July

Big rock festival headlined by Gorillaz, Dizzee Rascal, Kasabian, The Specials and The Prodigy, with Lily Allen and Charlotte Gainsbourg also on a long, long list of visitors to the Mediterranean resort.

Vienna, Austria, 15 July-15 August

ImPulsTanz, Vienna’s annual international dance festival, with Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Monte Carlo Ballet, Robyn Orlin, Wim Vandekeybus, Louise Lecavalier and a new Anne-Teresa de Keersmaeker creation for Rosas all vying for attention in venues from cafes to opera houses.

Orange, France, 15 July-7 August

Puccini’s Tosca with Roberto Alagna as Cavaradossi, Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez in operatic concert and the tuneful Gounod’s Mireille are the attractions inside the fabulously well-preserved Roman Théâtre Antique in southern France - itself vaut le détour.

Verbier, Switzerland,
16 July-1 August

Valery Gergiev conducting Salome with Deborah Voigt is typical of the jet-set lustre of this Swiss classical music festival in the Alps run by Charles Dutoit, so is the presence of piano greats Martha Argerich and Elisabeth Leonskaja in a very rare Schubert sonata cycle. Younger stars include pianists Denis Kozhukin and Evgeny Kissin, conductor Semyon Bychkov and violinist Joshua Bell.

yehudi_for_gstaadGstaad, Switzerland, 16 July-5 September

Established by Yehudi Menuhin, one of Gstaad’s many musical luminaries living in political and tax liberation here. This year’s headliners include pianist András Schiff, mezzo Cecilia Bartoli, Maxim Vengerov, Daniel Hope and young Scottish teenager Nicola Benedetti among many violinists, trumpeter Alison Balsom, the Leipzig and Hagen String Quartets and Bobby McFerrin. Venues include local churches and a white marquee.


Torre del Lago, Italy, 16 July-22 August

Near Viareggio, the Tuscan lakeside town hosts an annual Puccini Opera Festival dedicated to Giacomo Puccini near his birthplace, Lucca. A huge open-air theatre stages La Fanciulla del West, Tosca, Madama Butterfly and Turandot.

Aida_Bregenz_lakeBregenz, Austria, 21 July-22 August

Former ENO supremo David Pountney curates a big-scale open-air opera festival staged partly on a floating stage on Lake Constance. The core attraction is Graham Vick’s huge lakeside Aida, plus a special feature in concerts and opera of the Polish composer Miecyslaw Weinberg, with the Vienna Boys’ Choir and soprano Elena Kelessidi among interpreters. (Remember that heat and water means mosquitoes for which Bregenz is notorious.)

Bayreuth, Germany, 25 July-28 August

The legendary Wagner opera festival now run by his two great-granddaughters. Comprehensive programme of Lohengrin (Jonas Kaufmann stars, Andris Nelsons conducts), Parsifal (young British tenor Christopher Ventris stars, UK conductor Daniele Gatti conducts), Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, The Ring (Linda Watson as Brünnhilde, conducted by Christian Thielemann).

Maltman_don_giovanni_salzburgSalzburg, Austria, 25 July-30 August

De luxe opera festival much featuring the Vienna Philharmonic and traditional sweetmeats of opera, this year on a general theme of myths. Edita Gruberova’s Norma is sold out, but you can still get to Rihm’s Dionysus, Riccardo Muti conducting Gluck’s Orfeo and Strauss’s Elektra (with Waltraud Meier), Daniele Gatti conducting Berg’s Lulu, Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s Don Giovanni (with Christopher Maltman, pictured) and Roméo et Juliette (with Anna Netrebko).

Musique Cordiale, France, 4-14 August

Seillans, near Nice, France. A fortnight’s fresh, unpretentious and sociable music-making between student professionals, established names and good amateurs in southern France. Cosi fan Tutte staged outdoors in Seillans’s town square, and concerts in various nearby towns include Fauré, Poulenc and plenty of baroque.

danko_jones_szigetBudapest, Hungary, 9-16 August

Sziget rock festival fields a typically Mitteleuropean line-up (ie, mostly metal, such as Public Enemy, Muse, Iron Maiden, Kasabian and the Sziget favourite, Canada’s deafening Danko Jones, pictured) on Obudai Island in the Danube.

Lucerne, Switzerland, 12 August-18 September

Everybody who is anybody in classical music plays here during a month packed with superlative musicians including conductors Claudio Abbado, Simon Rattle, Suzanna Mälkki, Pierre Boulez and Andris Nelsons, violinists Frank Peter Zimmermann and Anne-Sophie Mutter, pianists András Schiff and Helene Grimaud, singers Thomas Quasthoff, Jonas Kaufmann (in Fidelio) and Karita Mattila. Orchestras include Vienna Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Bolshoi, Concertgebouw, Leipzig Gewandhaus and Berlin Baroque Soloists. Scenery includes mountains, lakes and extraordinary bridges.

Cavan, Eire, 16-22 August

The annual Fleadh Cheoil - a huge national celebration of Ireland's traditional music, dance and arts - with over 10,000 musicians competing to raise standards (or so the thought is). It travels to a different town each year.

Berlin, Germany, 19 August-3 September

Tanz im August (Dance in August) is a major German contemporary dance festival. The programme goes online at the end of June.

Stradbally, Eire, 3-5 September

Electric Picnic is the Irish equivalent of Bestival, with Roxy Music, Leftfield, Massive Attack, LCD Soundsystem and a lot of big names finishing up their European festival circuit in this laidback event where there are even bike racks for the eco-conscious traveller.

Wexford, Eire, 16-30 October

The 59th Wexford Opera Festival has just opened booking. Known for rediscoveries and rareties beautifully staged, this year’s trio of gourmet treats are Mercadante’s Virginia, Peter Ash and Donald Sturrock’s The Golden Ticket (a new US opera based on Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), and Smetana’s Hubicka (The Kiss). Plus one-act abridgements of Puccini’s La bohème, Pergolesi’s La serva pardona, and a new Irish opera Richard Wargo’s Winners.

Add comment


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters