6 Aug, 2023 @ 18:18
3 mins read

ARTS: Madrid’s sizzling summer of culture

ANYONE dreaming of a snowy forest should travel to Madrid where you can stand in one right now. The surreal immersive experience is probably Spain’s coolest arty event this summer, and just one of a packed programme of concerts, theatre, exhibitions and film organised across the capital until August 27.
Each year, Madrid goes all out with its cultural marathon festival, Veranos de la Villa. Artists from Mali to Japan and all over Spain perform more than two hundred events across two dozen locations – many outdoors – throughout July and August. The Centro Cultural Conde Duque is a hub, and about half the events are free.
What’s on when and where information is available along with with maps and tickets (where required) on the official website. But it’s also exciting to stumble across an event at random. One summer, I came across a rickety stand erected in a neighbourhood plaza, and a play about to begin. The audience was small and enthusiastic and included Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem on a date night; the play was funny, and the idyllic setting made for a memorable night.

However, there are highlights you should stick in the diary and definitely book a short break to see.


Seasonal Proximities by Cao Yuxi

The snowy forest and other monumental installations of Seasonal Proximities are by Chinese artist Cao Yuxi. Commissioned for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games ceremony and exhibited around the world, they are thrilling and chilling visitors to the capital, courtesy of the Chinese Cultural Centre in Madrid. Cao’s exploration of how technology warps our perception of reality makes for vivid natural landscapes and an immersive 360-degree cinematic experience, transporting us to a refreshing great outdoors.
Espacio Cultural Serrería Belga (Belgian Sawmill Cultural Space) until August 27.

In Your Face – Chicano exhibition

The vibrant In your Face exhibition captures the Chicano culture, traditions and socio-political beefs of Mexican-American artists. Sculptures, engravings and paintings – many from private collections – are on show in Spain for the first time, also at the Espacio Cultural Serrería Belga until August 27.

Hurry to catch the drummers!

Yamato Drummers in Tenmei – Destiny

The Yamato Drummers (The Drums of Japan) perform Tenmei – Destiny at the Centro Cultural Conde Duque on August 8 & 9. They have beaten the hell out of their tradition wadaiko drums during their energetic 90-minute sets in more than 50 countries around the world – and now they’re here . . . briefly. Their live performances are so intense that audiences get overwhelmed with wild emotion, and everyone’s heart rates go up, they say. (Performances start at 10pm).

Cinema and drag queens

Sequins and Castanets (Lentejuelas y Castañuelas)

David McNally’s millennial classic Coyote Ugly (2000) is the last in the festivals Hot Movies series – an event that combines the film with musical entertainment by Opera Primas. Parque de la Bombilla on August 16 (starts 9pm).

And there’s a playful nod to the late great Andalucian flamenco star of screen and stage Lola Flores to mark the 100 year anniversary of her birth: Sequins and Castanets (Lentejuelas y Castañuelas) sees six of Spain’s best-known drag queens taking on her classic songs along with top hits of Spanish divas such as Isabel Pantoja and Sara Montiel. Wear a boa!
The concert takes place in the courtyard of the Centro Cultural Conde Duque on August 18 (starts 9.30pm).

Spectacular concerts

The grand finale: 100 Cellos

What about cellists instead of drummers? 100 Cellos is just that: a creative and innovative project in which a hundred cellists come together, for one night only, to form an open orchestra made up of famous soloists, students, amateurs and music lovers.
Under the expert direction of internationally renowned cellist and famed composer Giovanni Sollima and cellist, composer and conductor Enrico Melozzi, the repertoire will encompass all periods and genres.
A free event, this will be the grand finale of the summer festival with a pre-concert picnic in the park meadows for the lucky audience members.
Auditorio al Aire Libre. Parque Enrique Tierno Galván, August 27 (starts 8.30pm).

Something Unexpected at Centro Cultural Conde Duque

Also worth catching is the traditional Something Unexpected. The free concert with its mystery artist has become a regular feature of the Veranos de la Villa summer.
‘We ask that you never cease to be surprised by the unexpected at our side,’ say the organisers. That’s the right frame of mind to approach the whole festival that’s full of inspiring surprises.
Centro Cultural Conde Duque, August 20 (9.30pm). Tickets can be downloaded or collected in advance from 14 August at 12 noon.


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Sorrel Downer

Sorrel is a journalist based in Spain who writes for The Guardian, and whose bylines include The Telegraph, The Times, Financial Times, Conde Nast Traveller, Business Life, Business Insider, Reader's Digest, Evening Standard, and the BBC.

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