This week marks the 65th anniversary for the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, one of Europe’s five most distinguished cultural festivals. It is a month of tradition and modernity, classical arts combined and working with contemporary projects and practices. The program is rich with fantastic theatre, musical performances, opera and ballet, and is set in and amongst one of the world’s most scholarly and truly poetic cities.
Last year the opening ceremony was a feast for the eyes with hundreds of musicians and dancers taking part outside the church of St. Blaise. The rumble of drums on the outset, the sight of stilted men carrying Libertas flags followed by a traditional dance surrounding a single Lijercia player in the center of the square. This year aiming to build upon the last; a stunning beginning to a very exciting few weeks predicted for the city.
The city has been hosting the summer festival since the early 1950’s of which was a golden age of music and theatre in Europe, the decade saw a rapid growth of events and festivals beginning to take shape in many cities around the continent. The Dubrovnik Summer Festival though has seen some of the most success, being awarded the Gold International Trophy for Quality in 2007. This noted quality is a result of a combination of many things, one of them being its elegant setting in the old city on the south coast of Croatia.
In 1979 the old city of Dubrovnik joined the UNESCO list of world heritage sites, and it is easy to see why. The city is incredibly beautiful, boasting a throng of old buildings and settings including the oldest arboretum in the world, dating to 1492, and home to a host of rare flora and fauna, including two Oriental Plane trees, each over 500 years old. The city is situated on a peninsula, jutting out into the shimmering Adriatic Sea. Its old harbour, streets and churches all holding a baroque style with a unique sophisticated character.
The festival has presented a wide array of theatrical performances since its beginning in the 1950s, including those of Croatian playwrights such as Marin Držić and other internationally admired writers and librettists such as Goldoni, Moliere and Goethe. Historically the plays are set and staged in some of the city’s most attractive settings, including the old city harbour and the Rector’s Palace. This year Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is being staged in the beautiful 16th century renaissance castle of Skocibuha between the 25th and the 28th of July.
Other parts of the festival’s program include symphony orchestras, pianists, jazz, films, poetry readings, ballet and opera performances. It is the festival’s ability to offer classical and contemporary acts in both quantity and quality, ranging from high energy dances, to harmonious musical compositions that have visitors returning and critics holding the festival in very high regard. Lado, the National Folk Dance Ensemble of Croatia, performing on the 27th of July tie together these elements so intricately, with beautiful authentic national costumes combined with modern musical and choreographic details.
It is easy to be inspired by what is on offer; a truly international program relying on the city’s heritage and strong Croatian tradition. Dubrovnik already is a center for culture in Croatia, and with the festival it becomes a standing beacon of creative freedom and expression in the world. ‘Walls of Stone, Heart of Art’ was last year’s festival motto; these words seem to capture the festival’s creative core, and the city’s external beauty so well.
Which worldwide festival has inspired you?