There will be a video opera where film and reality mirror each other mysteriously, a circus which brings together poetry and humour and a film festival under the stars. The Malta Council for Culture and the Arts (MCCA) has unveiled its programme for the ninth edition of the Malta Arts Festival 2014, Malta's largest arts festival.
Running from 14 July to 2 August, artists from Croatia, the UK, Spain, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, South Africa and Russia will join some of the best Maltese artists in a festival with 18 performances and a separate programme of workshops and master classes. Most of these events will be held in some of the island's most prestigious historical venues, such as the Mediterranean Conference Centre, Pjazza Teatru Rjal and the newly-restored Fort St Elmo, bringing a layer of history to the festival's already rich narrative.
Following the previous artistic director's resignation last December, the programme was put together by an artistic committee composed of four arts practitioners: British-Malaysian dancer and choreographer Mavin Khoo, composer Ruben Zahra, theatre director and actor Toni Attard and Malta Philharmonic Orchestra chair Sigmund Mifsud. The team worked under the direction of MCCA chair Albert Marshall to put together a programme in five months - breakneck speed in festival programming terms. Meanwhile, a call for applications has been issued for next year's artistic director.
The festival will open on a high note with 2Cellos, where two young Croatian cellists take cello playing to a new level in a breathtaking live performance. The next day, Kelma Kelma, the Maltese language facebook phenomenon, will team up with the Big Band Brothers for a night of music and literature at Pjazza Teatru Rjal.
Fort St Elmo will set the scene for Hide and Seek, the new dance production by Ivan Perez which will take audiences into an atmospheric trip where desires, frustrations, madness and tenderness are slowly revealed. The other main dance event of the programme, a Triple Bill of duets featuring works by emerging Maltese practitioners and established international artists, will be held at Pjazza Teatru Rjal.
Two events are sure to be a hit with families: Fecha de Caducidad is a circus from Spain which will bring together moments of poetic beauty, of heart-stopping risk and of tragically funny circus combined with elements of physical theatre and dance to create a visually stunning and emotionally charged show. Ir-Ritorn, a production based on Homer's Odyssey by Teatru Anon, originally a Żigużajg Commission, promises to be a quirky good old-fashioned swashbuckling adventure. Both performances are free for children 12 years and under.
Music-lovers will enjoy Ruben Zahra & Windstreken Ensemble, a concert which portrays a unique folk-fusion profile, as well as Up-close, an innovative work by Dutch composer Michel van der Aa where film and live performance reflect each one another. Up-Close is a cello concerto duplicated and magnified until it reaches the boundary of video opera, featuring soloist Konstanze van Gutzeit under the direction of Pavel Snajdr with the string orchestra of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra.
Also bridging genres is Il-Kappillan ta' Malta, a stage adaptation of Monsarrat's famous novel by Immanuel Mifsud. Presented by Fundazzjoni Avventura, the theatre company behind Vassalli and Jiena Nћobb Inti Tћobb, the performance will be held at Piazza d'Armi in Fort St Elmo. And the emerging artists series - featuring musicians Nadine Galea and Luke Baldacchino - will also present an interdisciplinary showcase of music, literature and painting.
The visual arts will also make a strong appearance through VIVA, the Valletta International Visual Arts Festival, a first pioneering festival for the visual arts in Malta. Organised by St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, Valletta 2018 Foundation and Agenzija Żgћażagћ, with the support of the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts, the festival will run a few weeks after the Malta Arts Festival and will include events such as a summer curatorial school, exhibitions in Valletta and the third edition of a collective exhibition for young emerging artists.
Also running as part of the festival is a series of films which will be held under the stars at Pjazza Teatru Rjal, curated by Simshar director Rebecca Cremona with a guest appearance by distinguished professor Dr Yevgeny Yevtushenko.
Despite the novelties, however, audiences can also look forward to some firm favourites: Globe will be back with King Lear, with Pjazza Teatru Rjal providing the backdrop to the high tragedy of what is arguably Shakespeare's most moving play. And the trademark Closing Concert will be held at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra playing under the baton of Mro Brian Schembri with Russian cellist Alexander Kniazev.
Workshops, too, remain an important part of the programming, setting up a dialogue between artists from abroad and Maltese artists. In the middle of a summer calendar replete with events, the Malta Arts Festival allows audiences to experience the work of international artists alongside some of the best Maltese talent in a vibrant programme of high-calibre performances in historical venues.
The Malta Arts Festival is organised by The Malta Council for Culture and the Arts under the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government, with the support of Fondazzjoni Ċelebrazzjonijiet Nazzjonali, MSV Life, Fimbank, Infusion and the Phoenicia Hotel