By Vladislav Strnad, The Institute of Cultural Diplomacy
The summer open-air theatre festival aims to put on the works of William Shakespeare and takes place at several stages in the Czech Republic and Slovakia from the 25th June to the 7th September, 2013
“The Summer Shakespeare Festival is the oldest and the largest open air Shakespearean theatre festival in Europe,” says artistic director Libor Gross. For several years this Czechoslovakian project has been held at various venues across the region between Prague and Kosice. The festival takes place on open stages at the Prague Castle, courtyard of the Liechtenstein Palace in Prague, the castle Špilberk in Brno, the Slezkoostravský castle in Ostrava and the Bratislava Castle in Bratislava. This year performances were also shown in the Zvolen Castle in Zvolen.
Throughout its existence, the event has annual premieres to introduce newly staged Shakespeare plays. It has established itself as an unmissable event that attracts an audience from all over the region. It is not only because of the interesting productions, quality drama and exceptional cast, but also due to the charm of the historic locations where the theatre festival takes place that so many people are drawn to spectate. The organizers are always trying to surprise audiences and offer them new, innovative perspectives on the works of Shakespeare. The Summer Shakespeare Festival is remarkable not only for its thematic focus, but also for its Czech-Slovak dimension. Open air theatres within the castle courtyards have their own characteristic features and therefore a unique charm.
The Summer Shakespeare Festival productions are prepared by internationally acclaimed directors from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and from abroad. Performances are put on by excellent Czech and Slovak actors.
The locations for the Summer Theatre festivals are selected very carefully and they are usually places of cultural interest which can facilitate open air performances. The Brno Castle has the largest capacity with 1000 seats. In Prague, the Prague Castle and the Liechtenstein Palace can accommodate 600 spectators, in Ostrava the capacity is around 700 and it is even slightly less in Bratislava. Performances begin in the evening and artificial lighting enhances the atmosphere of the surroundings. Celebrations are accompanied by a mass audience interest. Last year there were up to 87,000 visitors and the cast successfully performed over 140 shows.(1)
This year’s season started at the Prague Castle with the comedy ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ an emotive play about a magical summer night, mischievous fairies and an entertaining love triangle. In addition to excellent performances and the romantic setting of the castle, the audience enjoys the unusual scenery which brilliantly alternates night and day, the extravagant costumes and especially the directors’ interesting individual style.(2) The Prague festival has staged successful reprises of ‘Richard III’, ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor.’ Ostrava offers the play ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost.’ The Prague premiere will have the Slovak-Czech version of ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’, and is performed in a multilingual version. The Bratislava production this year has prepared another multilingual comedy ‘Twelfth Night: Or What You Will’ for audiences in Bratislava and Brno. They were not afraid to experiment with staging and decided to put on the stage an entire rock band. So much emphasis was put on creating the perfect sound-score that the play was nominated “the most musical performance” of the year.(3)
The emergence of the festival was initiated by President Václav Havel. He opened the Prague Castle to artists which attracted the public to the Castle. The first Shakespeare performances took place in 1990. Since 1998, the festivities have been held regularly. Between 1999 and 2000 the festival took place under the auspices of Václav Havel. The event was supported in 2004 by the then President Václav Klaus.
In its early years, there were only two productions over the summer but the festival has gradually grown stronger to its present form. The existence of the Shakespeare Festival once even caught the attention of Buckingham Palace when Prince Charles expressed in a personal letter his interest for the continuation of the festival.(4)
The British Shakespeare Company, the second largest and best known Shakespeare Company in the UK, has also been affiliated with the festival giving it even more accreditation.(5)
Although William Shakespeare did not write for children, special children’s days focussed on the interaction of children and their parents were organized. At the Prague Castle there was a medieval market, where children had the opportunity to try a variety of activities from fencing to making puppets for the production of costumes or to play theatre.
As an accompanying program of this year’s festival in Ostrava, from the 2nd to the 10th of August there will be a lot of interesting theatre, music and performer achievements. For the second year in Ostrava, there is a “ShakespeareOFF”, which gives space to domestic and foreign young artists.(6)
In Brno “Gallery Vaňkova” there was an autographing opportunity with the main actors of “The Taming of the Shrew” and a photo and costume exhibition from the show.(7)
It should be noted that without quality translations of the Shakespeare plays, the festival would not be such a success. Anglophone and Shakespearolog Martin Hilský took care of Czech translations. His translations of the complete work of William Shakespeare were published in one volume in 2011. “Sometimes I wonder how current Shakespeare is….. It is a déjà vu, “says Hilský, who was appointed as honorary member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001 for contributions to the spread of English literature in the Czech Republic and for Shakespeare translations.(8)
By Vladislav Strnad, The Institute of Cultural Diplomacy
On the 28th of July 2013 on the top of Velká Javořina, in the border region of the Czech and Slovak Republic, hundreds of citizens from both sides of the border met during the traditional festival of brotherhood and unity. This annual event reminds each nation of their common history where two increasingly interconnected nations gradually established a peaceful path to full independence over the last century. However, there still remains a certain bond and sense of togetherness between them which can be seen in similarities in culture and lifestyle.
Velká Javořina (970 m) is not only the highest point of the Bílé Karpaty, but also the oldest protected area of this mountain range. The mountain, which is steeped in legends traditionally chanted about in Slovak and Moravian songs, became a landmark meeting place for the Moravians and Slovaks in the 19th century. Then, it was a meeting place for not only for Slovak and Moravian students, teachers, priests and artists but also for ordinary people. Javořina was a gathering place for the building of friendships between Moravians and Slovaks, a space for manifestations, a place of joint excursions and a place for cheerful socials. This tradition was revived in 1990. Now, a new meeting, entitled “Celebration of Czechs and Slovaks Brotherhood, Javořina”, has been created. The Czech – Moravian – Slovak memorial, a work of sculptor Otmar Oliva, symbolizes that despite the current and future transformations of Europe, people in the Moravian-Slovak border remain close. The Javořina festivities are the culmination of a project of “Czech and Slovak reciprocity”. Throughtout the year there are numerous cultural and tourist events. Festival organizers have one common goal; to maintain the special relationship between the people and to increase the quality of life of people from both sides of the border.(1)
This year’s celebrations were attended by many folk ensembles, brass bands and choirs from the border region. There was a varied program of authentic fair stalls and traditional activities taking place in the natural amphitheater for the hundreds of visitors and well-known personalities from the media and politics who attended the aevent. Soloists and groups of different genres performed. Their art is an example of the rich folk traditions and extraordinary cultural and social affinities of the two nations. There were also competitions for children. The day before, a meeting of cyclists from the Czech and Slovak Republic, called the ‘Javorina Tour 2013’, was held on the top of the Velká Javořina.(2)
Czechs and Slovaks actually lived in one state from the times of the Hapsburg monarchy. The first independent state of Czechs and Slovaks was created in 1918. After seventy years of the existence of one united state, the Czechoslovak Republic broke into two on January 1st 1993 and became the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic. Both nations had a chance to start building their own sovereign states. Mutual relations remained, and always have been, fair and good. Regular meetings between Heads of States are conducted and there is constant communication between both cultural, educational and scientific spheres. The Czech Republic and Slovakia joined the European Union and NATO. Slovakia has ceased to be a “younger brother” and relations between the two nations”were given the standard level of relations between two neighboring countries, which between them have no problems and, by contrast, have much in common in the past.” (3)
Even after 20 years, the dissolution of Czechoslovakia is considered by Slovak former Prime Minister Vladimir Mečiar and by a former president of the Czech Republic Václav Klaus as a necessary step which helped everyone.
Mečiar said that the decision of the dissolution of Czechoslovakia was the right move, and if the republic did not divide in 1993, Slovakia would now be considered as insignificant European region. (4)
Václav Klaus justified the political decisions that “… our priority was to preserve the friendship and good relations between Czechs and Slovaks and preserve our future cooperation. We have stood the test because we approached each other with respect and a desire to understand one another. We have stood the test because we wanted success not just for us, but for the other side as well.”
Today the President for Czech-Slovak Relations has heralded the relationship between the two nations as great; unburdened by historical burdens and feelings of injustice or negative sentiments. “I believe that the Czechs and Slovaks remain true brothers to each other,” he said.(5)
Former Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas said that “the Slovaks are for Czechs the closest, truly fraternal nation; the nation on which we always rely, even at an international level, we know that we can rely on him.” It is difficult to find in Europe two nations with such friendly relations.(6)
By Vladislav Strnad, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy
‘Colours of Ostrava is a multi-genre music festival held annually in the city of Ostrava. As of last year, the event is being held in the beautiful surroundings of Dolní Vítkovice – the site of former blast furnaces, mines and ironworks. The first festival took place in 2002.
The festival has brought a number of notable headliners to Ostrava over the years including Grinderman, Robert Plant, ZAZ, Alanis Morissette, Cranberries, Sinéad O´Connor, Bobby McFerrin, Mariza, Salif Keita, Jamie Cullum, Janelle Monáe, The Flaming Lips, Antony and the Johnsons, Jan Garbarek, Gipsy Kings, Kronos Quartet, Michael Nyman as well as Animal Collective; top names in jazz, world music, rock, pop as well as the alternative scene. The festival also offers a diverse accompanying programme including theatre, workshops, discussions, films etc.’(1)
Colours of Ostrava is an international multi-genre music festival held annually in Ostrava. It is one of the biggest summer festivals in the Czech Republic. Colours of Ostrava, during a twelve-year run in Europe, has built a reputation as a major festival in modern design with wide range of music. Over the years the festival has adapted its lineups to include new undiscovered talent in an effort to ‘move with the times’, much like the Roskilde festival. This provides a platform for upcoming artists showcased at the festival to perform in front of audiences that are interested in their respective styles.
The biggest stars included: Sigur Rís, Jamie Cullum, The xx, The Knife, Tomahawk with Mike Patton, Damien Rice, and Asaf Avidan. Furthermore, a great impression was made by singers, Sara Tavares, Savina Yannatou, and Amparo Sanchez. Also, Transglobal Underground feat Albanian brass band Fanfara Tirana, Mama Rosin, Berlin band 17 Hippies, and more. For the first time in Czech Republic several African artists were present at the festival: Mali’s singer Roki Traoré, reggae star Tiken Jah Fakoly from Côte d’Ivoire, Acoustic Africa from Ivory Coast and Cameroon, Moroccan singer and lute player guimbri Aziz Sahmaoui, Tunisian lute player Dhafer Youssef, and more. The Czech artists included Tata Boys, Zrní, Radúza, Markéta Irglová, Vojta Dyk, Umakart, Psí Vojáci, Aneta Langerová, The Prostitues, Wanastowi Vjecy, Luno, Pražský výběr, and Xindl X.
Perhaps no other festival in the world can offer a more unique musical and social environment. As of last year, the festival now takes place in Dolní Vítkovice, an abandoned industrial area; surrounded by old, but renovated, mines and smelters. The area, founded in 1830, is now declared as a national cultural monument. In 2008, Dolní Vítkovice was amongst one of four Czech sites of interest that made its way on to a list of places that are regarded as important in European cultural heritage. Festival goers and Czech natives now hope that Dolní Vítkovice can make its way on to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The 12th festival took place from 18th – 21st of August, 2013. It was visited by more than 33,000 spectators. Musical performances and complimentary events in the streets of Ostrava were attended by more than 60,000 people. The festival itinerary was made up of 106 bands, coming from an impressive 29 countries; 46 of the artists were from Czech Republic. Besides music, the festival offered a chance for people to taste other types of performances at the theater, as well as different venues for films, discussions, workshops, and DJs. Adding to the already comprehensive list of music offered at the festival, new genres at the Drive stage were added that offered alternative country, folk, blues and rockabilly performances for festival goers to enjoy. Seventeen domestic and international bands participated there. To accommodate all attendants, parents could take their children on rollercoaster rides and/or leave them in a supervised play area whilst they enjoyed the full experience of the festival. External companies also took part; the famous gallery owner, Zdenek Sklenar as well as various other artists, displayed contemporary Czech art.
UNICEF was also present at the festival, offering different merchandise and interesting workshops for children and adults. Proceeds that came from UNICEF’s activites went towards funding various vaccination programs, which annually save the lives of more than 3,000,000 children.
(1)http://www.colours.cz/en/ Colours of Ostrava 2013
(4)http://www.colours.cz/ Colours of Ostrava 2013
(5)http://www.unicef.cz/aktualne/55452-unicef-na-colours-of-ostravabr-18—21-cervence-2013 UNICEF na COLOURS OF OSTRAVA
During the “Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy in Afghanistan & Central Asia,” participants will have the exciting opportunity to attend the 13th All Nations Festival in Berlin. The All Nations Festival Berlin will grant an insight into the diverse cultural aspects of the participating countries and will allow participants the chance to experience International Relations in practice. Not only will embassies open their doors to the public, but many other cultural institutions will grant free access to their facilities, thus creating a great occasion for participants to find out more about the host countries. Visitors will also have the chance to have “visas” inserted into their free Festival Passes as a souvenir at each location included in the All Nations Festival. The Festival Pass will also help the visitor find their way around Berlin with a guide to public transport, however, there is no set route, so visitors are free to combine this experience with other aspects of Berlin sightseeing. In the past, The All Nations Festival has involved embassies from all around the world, including Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan which is central to the theme of the Symposium.
The All Nations Festival is an exceptional opportunity to get to know the customs and traditions of nations that participants are less likely to come across in their day-to-day lives. In 2010, the All Nations Festival was presented with the “Germany – Land of Ideas; 365 Locations within the Land of Ideas” award which is given only to events deemed to have an enduring impact on Germany’s cultural sustainability. These awarded locations stand for imagination, passion, and drive for the implementation of ideas that put Germany at the forefront of Cultural Diplomacy, giving people the chance to participate in cultural exchange.
The All Nations Festival is held in Berlin every year in close collaboration with the Berlin embassies and cultural initiative institutes throughout the capital. This being the 13th time the event has been held, a positive development regarding the number and diversity of participating embassies and cooperating cultural institutions.
The All Nations Festival 2013 will include the participation of several embassies and cultural institutions that will allow visitors to experience as many diverse cultures and traditions as possible. Partner embassies and organizations will include:
For more details on the All Nations Festival, please click HERE
by Letizia Binda-Partensky (ACD Program Coordinator)
Chaabi, Gnawa, Malhun, Rai, Sufi, And what about a pinch of slam?
In the midst of the February 20th protest movement, politically challenging lyrics are infiltrating the Moroccan music scene, increasingly reaching the ears of listeners through alternative music festivals and radio stations. Continue reading