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47 successful festival days despite challenges

Written by  Sep 01, 2021

The Dubrovnik Summer Festival, the most prestigious cultural and artistic event in Croatia and one of the oldest European festivals, brought to a close another successful festival season holding, in challenging circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic, 76 drama, music, dance, folklore and other programmes on 16 site-specific locations in and around the city of Dubrovnik over 47 festival days, from 10 July to 25 August.

Premiering at Lazareti and on Komarda at the very start of the Festival in July was the play Besides Oneself, an original project by Nataša Rajković, Ivan Penović and the play’s cast, produced as part of the Port of Dreamers project which is co-financed by the European Union Creative Europe fund in which the Dubrovnik Summer Festival is a leading partner. Besides Oneself dealt with migrations as an inevitable, continuous social process. The end of August brought the second drama premiere, the play Lion House based on the eponymous Ivan Salečić novel which was adapted for stage by Marijana Fumić and directed by Aida Bukvić with performances by the Festival Drama Ensemble. The highly praised adaptation, ambience and acting performances guaranteed the play as a whole the Orlando award for best artistic achievement in this year’s Festival drama programme. Some hit plays had their reprises: Mara and Kata, which sold out right from the start, directed by Saša Božić and performed by Doris Šarić Kukuljica and Nataša Dangubić. Then, Marin Držić’s Grižula directed by Saša Božić and Petra Hrašćanec, and performed by the Festival Drama Ensemble led by Ozren Grabarić and Nataša Dangubić. Also sold out was Shakespeare’s Hamlet directed by Paolo Magelli and with performances by the Festival Drama Ensemble with Frano Mašković as the leading role of the Danish prince. As part of the Port of Dreamers EU project, the Dubrovnik Summer Festival hosted the touching Slovenian play Celebration based on an Ivor Martinić text, directed by Jan Krmelj and produced by the Slovenian National Theatre Maribor as well as the Serbian play Under the Same Roof directed by Ivana Janošev and co-produced by the Kulturanova Association and the the Hungarian minority Novi Sad Theatre – Újvidéki Színház. Traditionally a part of the Festival drama programme, the Lero Student Theatre put on their most recent production South Wind by author and director Davor Mojaš. As for the youngest audiences, the Poco Loco Theatre performed their interactive fairy tale to go Little Red Riding Hood, Wolf and Grandma on the island of Lokrum.

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This summer’s festival music programme hosted not only top Croatian soloists and ensembles but also renowned international musicians. The percussion ensemble Percussion Club, whose members are Ivana Kuljerić Bilić, Nikola Krbanyevitch, Francesco Mazzoleni and Luis Camacho Montealegre, had their debut performance together in front of the St. Blaise’s Church. Opening the Festival concert season in the Rector’s Palace were the Croatian Radio and Television Choir under the baton of Tomislav Fačini and Darija Auguštan, Martina Gojčeta Silić, Stjepan Franetović and Robert Kolar as soloists, delighting the audience with an amazing performance of Boris Papandopulo’s Croatian Mass. The following day the acclaimed young piano virtuoso Lovre Marušić also held a successful concert in the Rector’s Palace atrium. Next, the famed jazz musicians Richard Bona and Alfredo Rodríguez Trio took to the stage in front of the Cathedral, performing alongside the Croatian Radio and Television Jazz Orchestra conducted by Miron Hauser. Meanwhile, the Rector’s Palace atrium was where the esteemed charismatic Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva with a magical voice performed with the La Voce Strumentale under the baton of violinist Dmitry Sinkovski.

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The exceptional performance was praised by the audience and critics – the Orlando award jury too who awarded the soprano with the Orlando for best artistic achievement in the music programme of the 72nd Festival. The Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra String Chamber Ensemble performed under the baton of Ivan Hut alongside the brilliant violinist Eva Šulić who, just a few days later, performed once more with kvARTet, a chamber ensemble whose other members are violinists Đana Kahriman, Šimun Končić and cellist Pavle Zajcev. Renowned American tenor Lawrence Brownlee held a concert in the Rector’s Palace accompanied by Vesna Podrug Kossjanenko on piano wowing the audience with a lyric and opera repertoire. The unique musical project Dubrovnik on a Rock of Music gathering the best Dubrovnik musicians with soloists Lovro Merčep, Marija Grazio and Dubravka Šeparović Mušović had another triumphant edition this summer. Pianist Martina Filjak was joined in concert at the Rector’s Palace by the exceptional German hornist Felix Klieser and one of the leading Ukranian violinists Andrej Bielow while The Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the Brazilian conductor Eduardo Strausser performed in front of the Cathedral alongside pianist Goran Filipec, a master Liszt interpreter, on a concert which was a real musical extravaganza despite the windy conditions. Marta Schwaiger, Dani Bošnjak, Šimun Matišić, Stjepan Vuger and Alan Bošnjak make up the one-of-a-kind Harlequin Art Collective, an ensemble of peculiar instrument choice which they showcased in a concert in the Bunić-Kaboga Summer Villa where they performed a challenging Bach and Messiaen repertoire. Rounding off the Festival concert season at Rector’s Palace was the artful guitarist Petrit Çeku. The magnificent musical finale was the opera gala in front of the Cathedral, in which international opera starts soprano Diana Damrau and bass Nicolas Testé performed alongside the young tenor Roko Radovan and the Croatian Radio and Television Orchestra under the baton of maestro Ivan Repušić.

Popular at this year’s Festival was the dance programme which included two titles: Together co-produced by the 21:21 Arts Organisation and the Pan-Adria Network based on Petra Hrašćanec’s choreography done in collaboration with six dancers Viktorija Bubalo, Ema Crnić, Lara Frgačić, Tessa Ljubić, Ariana Prpić and Una Štalcar Furač, and monodrama Lulu by choreographer and director Staša Zurovac performed by the brilliant dancer Andressa Miyazato and violinist Alexander Balanescu. The aforementioned powerful and passionate dance-theatre-music monodrama was inspired by the works of Frank Wedekind.

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The Linđo Folklore Ensemble held their traditional Festival performances twice this year, in front of the Cathedral to the delight of the large foreign and local audience. Their exceptional and extraordinary contributions to the entire festival programme, a part of which Linđo have been since 1967, earned them this year’s Orlando Grand Prix.

The rich accompanying programme presented two exhibitions: the group exhibition in Sponza Palace Fortune Teller by Selma Hafizović, Jagoda Buić, Iva Laterza, Dubravka Lošić, Rebecca Ribichini and Tanya Small and the exhibition titled Without Compromise – costume designer Ika Škomrlj Ajki by authors Ivana Bakal and Martina Petranović at Lazareti, organised by ULUPUH (Croatian Association of Artists of Applied Arts) and the Dubrovnik Summer Festival. The traditional cooperation of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival and Pula Film Festival continued this summer too, with the triple Golden Arena award winner A Blue Flower directed by Zrinko Ogresta being screened at the Jadran open-air cinema. Educational programmes were plentiful too, with music masterclasses and other theatre and music workshops for children held as part of the Festival, thanks to the support of the Caboga Stiftung foundation.

Besides superb artistic achievements, the 72nd Dubrovnik Summer Festival can boast good business and financial results. Despite still being “pandemic”, the total budget was 8,2 million kuna (close to 1,1 million euro) of which some 65% was public funding and over 35% were sponsorships, donations, ticket sales and other own funds. As the epidemiological measures for low-risk cultural events relaxed in contrast to last year, ticket sales went up by 60% in comparison to the previous season, up to 820,000 kuna (close to 110,000 euro).

The Dubrovnik Summer Festival was again this year supported by the Croatian Ministry of Culture and Media, the City of Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik-neretva county and many other sponsors and benefactors led by Euroherc, Mastercard, Caboga Stiftung foundation, OTP bank d.d., Hrvatska elektroprivreda, Adriatic Luxury Hotels, ACI Club, Atlantska plovidba, Kraš and Croatia Airlines.