01.06.2014. Art & culture
Year on year, the Ravello Festival delivers one of the most essential summer celebrations of quality music in Italy. Founded in 1953 in tribute to Richard Wagner’s close connection with the town, the festival originally focused on classical music and opera - especially from the Wagnerian repertoire – but it has since broadened its scope to include dance, jazz, theatre and contemporary art.
It’s the open air setting in the gardens of Villa Rufolo that makes this such a unique venue: as long-time Ravello resident Gore Vidal once wrote, “often, when the orchestra plays Wagner, the full moon rises above the mountains in the east, their profile recalling a dragon’s head reclining gently on the beach, while the birds of Ravello, who after all these years are particularly musical birds, trill their counterpoint from high up in the dark pine trees”.
In 2010, the Festival added a long-awaited 320-seat indoor venue, the Auditorium Oscar Niemeyer, one of the last works of the Brazilian modernist architect whose name it bears.
This year’s Ravello Festival, which opens on 21 June and runs through to 20 September, includes some real treats. We’ve selected just five; for the full programme, see the Festival website.
18 July: London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniel Harding. It’s tribute to the prestige and pulling-power of the Ravello Festival that they have landed the sole non-UK concert for 2014 in which the world-class LSO appears alongside its principal guest conductor. The programme is mouth-watering: Schubert’s mysterious Eighth Symphony, the ‘Unfinished’, followed by Mahler’s majestic, technically-challenging First Symphony.
23 July: Chrysta Bell. ‘Muse’ is an over-used word, but until something better comes along it’ll do for the creative relationship between model, musician and performance artist Bell and cult US filmmaker David Lynch. Bell first met Lynch around ten years ago, contributing a song to the soundtrack of his film Inland Empire; the two went on to make an entire album together, The Train. In Ravello, the ethereal, misty-voiced Bell will present pieces from this collaboration accompanied by visuals designed by Lynch.
11 August: Dawn Concert (Concerto all’Alba). For years one of the most eagerly awaited appointments of the festival calendar, the dawn concert, entrusted this year to the Orchestra del Teatro Carlo Felice from Genoa, begins in darkness at 4.45am and ends as the sun rises over Monte dell’Avvocata. The musical journey follows the same route from the tenebrous drama of Musorgskij’s Night on Bald Mountain to the awakening of spring in Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony, via works by de Falla and Verdi.
21 August: The Kronos Quartet. Known as ‘probably the most famous new music group in the world’, the San-Francisco-based quartet recently celebrated their fortieth birthday. With a repertoire ranging from experimental classical music to film soundtracks (Requiem for a Dream, Heat) and collaborations with musicians as diverse as Astor Piazzola and David Bowie, the Quartet come to Ravello with a programme as eclectic as they are, mixing Wagner, Charlie Mingus, and four of the over 750 works that have been written especially for them over the years.
6 September: Orchestre National de France conducted by Daniel Gatti. France’s leading symphony orchestra, led by one of Italy’s most talented conductors, in a concert that centres on Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony – that’s the kind of cultural draw you build a holiday around.
In addition to the ongoing concert and performing arts season, this year’s festival is hosting an exhibition of sculptures by leading British artist Tony Cragg, monumental works in wood, bronze and steel placed so as to engage in an artistic dialogue with Villa Rufolo, the Niemeyer Auditorium, and the natural setting. The twelve works will be on display from 21 June until 31 October. A parallel show, this one dedicated to Chinese painter and installation artist Wang Guangyi, runs from 22 June to 20 September.
Tickets for all concerts and events go on sale from 31 May at www.ravellofestival.com.