The 60th edition of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival was closed to the sound of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on the evening of 25 August 2009. The concert was performed by the Philharmonia of the Nations, an international orchestra of young musicians from more than 40 countries, founded by the German pianist and conductor Justus Frantz. The orchestra was accompanied by the Croatian academic choir “Ivan Goran Kova?ić”, it featured soloists Valentina Fija?ko, Dubravka Šeparović, Tomislav Mužek and Lucian Batinić, and was conducted by maestro Justus Frantz himself. A commendable finale for a great anniversary.
This year’s Festival lasted 47 days and comprised 73 theatre, music, dance, opera, and art programs, which took place on 13 locations around the renaissance city. Around 2,000 artists from all over the world participated.
French artist Claude Aveline, who took part in the first edition of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival in 1950, later wrote that at the time he could not have dreamt he was witnessing “the birth of one of the best-known festivals of our era”. The Festival breathes a spirit of both joy and passion to Dubrovnik in the summer, while the city and its ambience endow the Festival with its special flavor.
A distinguishing mark of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival is its unique ambience. Performances take place in the city’s medieval settings such as the Lovrijenac and Revelin forts, the atrium of Duke’s Palace, the court of St. Blaise Church, the Art School Park, and others.
It is these distinct settings that have shaped the character of the Festival. Director Marko Fotez, one the founders of the Dubrovnik Summer Games, setup Hamlet on Lovrijenac Fort already in the year of 1952. In the ensuing years, the Fort, also referred to as Dubrovnik’s Gibraltar, became to known as one of the most original sceneries in the world for staging Hamlet.
Over the years, Shakespeare has been one of the pillars of the classical character of the Festival, accompanied by Molière, Corneille, Goethe, and Greek tragedies. One of the three premieres this year featured Hamlet by Croatian director Ivica Kunčević. In addition, the festival hosted an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Sonnet “Love is my Sin” by acclaimed British director Peter Brook performed by French theatre “Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord”.
Over the years, the Festival’s list of guests has included the names of many grand theatres. These include the Piccolo Teatro from Milan, the Old Vic from London, the Greek National Theatre from Athens, and many more.
Yet, ever since its beginnings, the works of Croatian national classics such as Marin Držić, Nikola Nalješković, Ivan Gundulić, or Ivo Vojnović, have been the foundation of the Festival’s theatre programme. This year saw the reruns of three Držić plays. Dubrovnik born Držić (1508 - 1567) is considered to be the greatest Croatian Renaissance playwright.
The city is also the authentic setting for the plays of Ivo Vojnović. Vojnović (1857 - 1929), who is sometimes referred to as the last great Dubrovnik writer, is famous for his Dubrovnik Trilogy, describing the fall of the Dubrovnik Republic in 1808.
Although theatre forms a great part of the Dubrovnik Summer Games, it is only a segment of what the Festival has to offer. This year, the programme featured 23 concerts and some of the greatest performs of our time, such as violinists Vadim Repin and Stefan Milenković. Opera stars such as soprano Inva Mula, baritone Kiril Manolov and tenor Krešimir Špicer also performed at the 60th anniversary edition.
Moreover, there was jazz but also folk performances for example by Croatian folk group Lin?o, which treasures the traditional dances from the area of Dubrovnik.
Giving credit to all the great artists who have contributed to the Dubrovnik Summer Festival over the years would be an impossible task. As the Festival director Dr. Ivica Prlender has written, the history of the Dubrovnik Summer Games “is a history without names or numbers. There are just too many of them, and they are all equally important. For the Festival is nothing but an imaginary parade. And a dream that rounds up that little life of ours.”