Forest recitals and underwater classical concerts at European Capital of Culture 2018

Joint European Capital of Culture 2018, Leeuwarden-Friesland in the Netherlands, is to present classical music events with a difference this summer. The 2018 cultural programme is broken down into three strands, Dare to Dream, Dare to Act, Dare to be Different, all pivoting around themes of sustainability, diversity and social justice.

Special highlights are Oranjewoud Festival, Conference of the Birds and Opera Spanga’s Aida. Led by its artistic director, the Dutch pianist Yoram Ish-Hurwitz, Oranjewoud Festival (1-10 June) was held in the forest park of the House of Orange-Nassau’s former summer palace. The lineup featured ground-breaking artists like Francesco Tristano and violin celebrity Nigel Kennedy.

Oranjewoud concerts took place in the elegant surrounds of the royal gardens and historic houses, in tepees and an underground bunker, and in giant plastic bubbles. Most spectacular, however, was an underwater concert of premieres, for which audiences pulled on their swimsuits and a special helmet, before floating while listening to music played by TEMKO that can only be heard when submerged.

The Conference of the Birds (7-8 July) will bring more than 2,000 amateur brass musicians together, led by composer Sytze Pruiksma, for an open-air concert in honour of the black-tailed godwit. The wading bird was once common in the meadows of Friesland, but the changing biodiversity of rural Friesland is having a colossal impact on the balance between man and nature.

Opera Spanga’s Aida (24 July-13 August) places Verdi’s classic in the Dutch hamlet of Spanga, where the natural scenery will serve as an epic backdrop. Aida then shows in Valletta (13-15 September), joint European Capital of Culture 2018. In this version, Corina van Eijk, artistic director of Opera Spanga, demonstrates Aida’s contemporary relevance in current world conflicts.