EFFE Laureate - Ravenna Festival
Location: Ravenna, Italy
Ravenna Festival President: Cristina Mazzavillani Muti
Artistic Direction: Franco Masotti, Angelo Nicastro
Superintendent: Antonio De Rosa
Dates: 2018/05/25 – 2018/07/14
Ravenna is such an iconic place, and has been since the latter days of the Roman Empire, that it is surprising that it did not have a festival until twenty-eight years ago. Despite its dusty location on the less picturesque Adriatic side of Italy it is a grand city and the extraordinary state of preservation of so many of its ancient buildings makes the sense of cultural continuity awe-inspiring. Not so surprising, then, that once Ravenna did decide to host a festival it was in the grand tradition – operatic in gesture and symphonic in substance. Recently the May till July festival has been augmented by an opera extravaganza in November.
The festival was started by Cristina Mazzavillani Muti, opera director wife of La Scala Milan's erstwhile conductor-in-chief, Riccardo Muti, true grandees of Italian music life. She now is one of a triumvirate of artistic directors planning the programme (more shades of the Roman Empire but with more successful results). Also looking after the traditional side of the repertoire is the producer and long-term Muti collaborator, Angelo Nicastro.
There is another and less predictable side to the Ravenna Festival, though, and this is overseen by Franco Masotti. His background is in the conjunction between contemporary visual arts and new music. He was an early pioneer of computer graphics and champion of musical minimalism. The result of the different personalities is a festival that uses the history and tradition of the surroundings to find some innovative themes. Both Mazzavillani and Masotti are Ravenna natives.
They are lucky that, with venues that include sites like the ruins of the ancient port of Classe, the Basilica di San Vitale (dating from 547 AD) and the splendid 19th century Teatro Alighieri, finding links is not exactly a chore. Speaking of Alighieri, the festival has just finished a three year Dante commemoration – he spent his later years and is buried in the city.
For twenty years a theme has been 'routes of friendship', celebrating heritage jointly with other cities around the world, often when relations between nations are strained. This year the emphasis has been on Tehran and previous years have seen it concentrate on Beirut, Erevan, Cairo, Damascus and Nairobi.
By Simon Mundy for EFA