What I heard about the (Arts) World*05
I heard that Europe was moving and shaking with festival life these last months! I heard of a wonderful festival in the Natural Park of Cabo de Gata and took the opportunity to go spend some quality time there. I also heard that our EFA members have been making the summer months exciting, so here are a couple of things I didn’t see but would have liked to. As they say: so many festivals, so little time.
This year’s edition of the Reykjavik Arts Festival highlighted women-authored works, censorship and the struggle for rights, and brought us three weeks of diverse experiences in the arts, including music, visual arts, dance, song and cooking. You read right – cooking – not as an art form, of course, but as a nice excuse to sit around a table in pleasant discussion of the work of Dorothy Iannone. Amongst the 25 new works performed or exhibited in this year’s edition, four were specifically commissioned by the Festival: theGuerilla Girls’ work for downtown Reykjavik; Thurídur Jónsdóttir’s Solid Hologram; and Rúrí’s Fount – Vocal VII, a site-specific performance art piece created specifically for Harpa’s Northern Lights hall. Plus, composers Daníel Bjarnason, Haukur Tómasson and María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir have all created new work this year which were presented in the evening entitled Novelty in the living room. The Festival was entitled Part I, so keep an eye out for Part II a year from now!
On the other side of Europe the George Enescu Festival offered its audience no less than six new works performed by the Ansamblul Hyperion conducted by Ilan Volkov: Anesthis Logothetis’s Paysage de Temps for ensemble; Iancu Dumitrescu’s Sound Agony II for ensemble and computer assisted sounds; Ana-Maria Avram’s Parhelion III for ensemble and computer assisted sounds and Chiaroscuro for three percussion groups; and Horatiu Radulescu’sOther Time for two contrabasses and ensemble. If this wasn’t reason enough to rush to the ticket office there was surprise: it was free entrance!
The Lucerne Festival also presented two specially commissioned pieces: Der Unfall by Jürg Wyttenbach, a madrigal play for ten participants after a libretto by Mani Matter, and Fensadense by Tod Machover, a piece for hyperinstruments and interactive electronics. According to the programme both composers cross borders – “whether between the arts, genres, or stylistic levels” in Wyttenbach’s work, or between “the multiple influences his music drawing on classical forms and avant-garde experimentalism, jazz improvisations and rock rhythms” with the “three great Bs – Bach, Berio, and The Beatles – also playing a central role in his new work” in the case of Tod Machover.
Still to come on the Jazz front, the Berliner Festspiele’s JazzFest will present, on 5 and 8 November, two world premieres within the stimulating programme of the JazzFest. On 5 November, the Splitter Orchester, joining 24 Berlin-based improvisers representing many different countries of origin and several disciplines, all involved in the Echtzeitmusik movement, is presenting the world première of a piece byGeorge Lewis, the celebrated American composer and trombonist. On 8 November, another ensemble bringing together musicians of various musical backgrounds and traditions – Divan of the Continents – ispremiering a piece written for an especially expanded line-up. Divan of the Continents intends to create a new sound out of the energy of difference and the instrumentation includes the koto from Japan, the sheng and the hulusi from China, the ney (the famous reed flute praised by the Persian poet Rumi), the kanun (a Turkish box zither), the oud, European orchestral and jazz instruments as well as electronics. The programme promises that it’ll be an evening of “unheard soundscapes explored by conjoining global instruments and new methods of transcultural composition bringing jazz improvisation to integrate the musicians’ diversity.”
A new EFA initiative born of collaboration – and intended also at fostering collaboration – had its first Award Ceremony and Community Launch on 27 September in Paris. The EFFE – Europe for Festivals, Festivals for Europe pilot project is a result of many years of intense collaboration with the European Commission and European Parliament based on the knowledge that festivals need visibility and exchanges. One way to guarantee this is to make sure everyone knows which festivals are doing the most exciting and innovative work. One also needs to create a coalition between festivals that share similar ambitions to get their audiences thinking about the world they live in.
Thanks to EFA’s past and present active engagement in Europe’s cultural policy development and thanks to its broad membership, the European Commission gave EFA the mandate to set up a new implementing organisation for this pilot project on the long term. It was launched in 2014 and its first initiative was a quality label. This label was given to festivals with an artistic commitment, involvement in their local communities and a European and global outlook. National experts assessed their country’s applications and saw if they met the three criteria. An international jury also gave awards – revealed in Paris – to the most adventurous and exciting festivals. Discover all about it on the new EFFE site now online.
Speaking of new works: the Reykjavik Arts Festival presented us with MagnusMaria a “new and progressive Nordic opera on human rights”. The opera, composed by Karólína Eiríksdóttir and directed bySuzanne Osten, tells the true story of Maria Johansdotter who, at the beginning of the 18th century, disguised herself as a man in order to fulfil her dream of working as a musician. Starting from this opera, the Festival proposed a workshop on how they have “worked with the body to actualise a norm critical collective storytelling”. The invitation was to “attend a workshop and explore how opera can be done in new ways. We discuss opera and proceed from body, idea and storytelling. We are innovative and work against patterns. We describe methods and trainings to find new impulses to impersonations. We dance and find new ways of expressions.”
Brno International Music Festival is looking forward to its Moravian Autumn 2015 running from 3 to 16 October 2015. This edition will bring us performances exploring connections between music and film as well as between music and text. One example is Batalion (1927), a Czechoslovak silent movie directed by Přemysl Pražský (with Karel Hašler in the leading role), a Czech premiere accompanied by live music by Kryštof Mařatka.
MITO Settembre Musica, on top of the many free concerts it offered, both in Milano and Torino, presented the Italian premieres of Thomas Adès’ Chamber Symphony and Concerto conciso, per pianoforte e ensemble and Philip Glass’ Akhnaten. If you were there for these premieres you might also have taken the time to check out the cycle Voci dello Spirito. This project, conceived by Francesca Colombo and curated by Giovanni De Zorzi and Ortensia Giovannini, consisted of seven round tables, or rather “listening sessions” in which communities shared their very essence with participants by means of the melodies taken from rituals or liturgies. The starting idea of this series was that “Sound marked the beginning of Time […]. The resonance of that re-eternal Sound has inspired mankind to interpret it in many different ways. It became an active and creative part of ritual.”
The Tbilisi International Theatre Festival, running until 8 October, is presenting seven new productions in its Georgian Showcase Programme: Kakha Bakuradze, Anuka Murvanidze and Ioseb Bakuradze’s Fan Do’s Magory by the Movement Theatre; andDavid Kldiashvili’s Samanishvili’s step-mother by the Iron Theatre directed by David Andguladze. Two companies bring a double bill of new productions: The Batumi Ilia Chavchavadze State Professional Drama Theatre will present Irakli Samsonadze and Andro Enukidze’s Bondo’s night directed by Andro Enukidze; and Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and whispers directed byMikheil Charkviani;The Tbilisi Vaso Abashidze Musical Comedu and Drama State Professional Theatre will present Anton Chekhov’s Three sisters directed by Konstantin Purtseladze and Euripides’s Medea directed by Mikheil Charkviani. A good opportunity to get acquainted with Georgian Theatre!
The Gent Festival of Flanders is launched every year with its OdeGand. For this year’s closure the festival managed to secure the exclusive rights to perform the original version of the West Side Story. This special production was set against the backdrop of the beautiful Graslei and Korenlei by the canals allowing for Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, in charge of the choreography, have the dancers using a catwalk over the water. The characters of this world famous story were performed by the singers of the International Opera Academy Gent, with the leads being in charge of Denzil Delaere (Tony) and Charlotte Panouklia (Maria). The Casco Phil Chamber Orchestra of Belgium, conducted by Ivan Meylemans was the third player in this special production.
Continuing with the Gent Festival of Flanders, from 16 to 20 September, in the remarkable setting of the Houtimport Lemahieu (port of Gent), it presented an example of truly successful collaboration:Accattone! This piece brought us Johan Simons’ impressive staging of Pasolini’s text and Johann Sebastian Bach’s music. As the programme states, it is a production “taking an innovative approach to relating to each other. Christoph Siebert and Collegium Vocale Ghent created a tension with Bach’s cantatas between heavenly deliverance and earthly reality with the terrific visual expression of this unique location in the port of Ghent.” The piece was presented in German with Flemish subtitles but even without speaking any of those languages it was still very much worth seeing.
Another example of two art forms collaborating in one piece which is more than the sum of both parts isIUSISUSU? IUSISUSU? is an improvisation project conceived by choreographer and dancer Guillermo Weickert and pianist Alejandro Rojas-Marcos with the intention of establishing a dialogue between their respective creative languages throughout successive meetings. It has a version with clavichord (as presented at Costa Contemporánea Festival) and a version with piano. I was awestruck by the manipulation of the clavichord (constructed by Alejandro Rojas-Marcos himself) and the materials he used to produce sounds, but I was told that what he and Guillermo Weickert achieve with a piano is equally mind-blowing!
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What I heard about the (Arts) World 5 / 2015 (September): Download the PDF.