15 Jun, 2024 @ 14:36
2 mins read

Gypsy ballads, Flamenco nights and world-class orchestration at the 73rd Granada Festival of Music & Dance

La Sylphide ©Alba Muriel

By Michael Molyneux  @Molyneux_Photography 

ERNEST Hemingway once said that if you were to visit just one Spanish city, it should be Granada.

For over half a century, the Granada Festival of Music and Dance has added to the appeal, hosting some of the world’s finest musicians and dancers.

Celebrated by the BBC as one of the most prestigious classical music festivals in Europe, it returns for its 73rd iteration this year, running until July 14. 

A total of 116 performances will take place over 33 days, with Franz Schubert’s more intimate compositions providing the common thread running through this year’s programme.

© Festival de Granada | Fermín Rodríguez

Some of Europe’s leading musicians and dancers will be appearing in sold-out venues across the city; from state-of-the-art auditoriums and renovated monasteries, to world-renowned concert halls, even a breathtaking 14th century open-air theatre.

This year, for the first time, attendees will enjoy the symphonic vivacity of one of Europe’s greatest orchestras, the Vienna Philharmonic, directed by Lorenzo Viotti. Also taking to the stage: the Spanish National Ballet; British classical pianist Paul Lewis, widely regarded as one of the leading musicians of his generation; and Trio Arbos, winners of the 2013 National Award for Spanish Music, who will be performing compositions by both Schubert and Jose Maria Sanchez Verdu, this year’s festival’s artist-in-residence.

The origins of the festival can be traced back centuries, beyond the jasmine-scented courtyards of legendary Spanish pianist Manual de Falla, and the theatrical duende of Federico Garcia Lorca, to the region’s Moorish ancestry, whose roots still spread out across the city in the form of architectural, artistic and musical wonders.

This Arabian Nights fantasy, and the festival’s other world-class venues, threaten to steal the show. As, last year, did a surprise performance by an on-form Bob Dylan at the Generalife Theatre. This year’s roster of visiting orchestras and performers also features an incredible line-up.

The soloists include legendary pianists such as Martha Argerich, Elisabeth Leonskaja and Sir András Schiff; the duo of Alexei Volodin and Edith Peña; and young talents such as Seong-Jin Cho, Alexandre Kantorow and Juan Floristán, all of them winners of international prizes. Article continues after gallery…

Orchestras will take over the Carlos V Palace; Spanish and modern dance as well as ballet performances will be held in the Generalife gardens; and the smaller classical recitals will take place in the Alhambra’s Arrayanes Patio. 

Concerts are also being held in churches and halls throughout Granada, and flamenco shows in the Albaicín and Sacromonte – outside the city walls, where the gypsies were historically forced to live – will liven up the nights following the festival’s scheduled performances.

During the festival there will also be an extensive programme of workshops and dance-troupe street-performances, many of which are free to attend.

Candlelit nights in the gardens and courtyards of Andalucia – where the scent of jasmine, orange blossom, cigars and perfume mingle in the evening air – are rendered all the more sublime by the spectacular backdrop of the Sierra Nevada (snow-capped until early-summer) and the immortal Alhambra, half citadel half palace, that adorns its foothills.

Less boisterous than its Andalucian neighbours Sevilla and Cadiz to the west, what Granada lacks in vociferousness, it more than makes up for in artistic virtuosity. As the city’s most famous poet Federico Garcia Lorca once said: Granada will always be ‘more lyrical than dramatic’.

The Granada Music and Dance Festival was born in the Alhambra, to reinforce the link between the imaginary city, and the real city, between the popular and the traditional aspects of Andalucian life, and to give recognition and momentum to the great heritage of European musical culture.

For festival tickets and information, please visit Granadafestival.org

Michael Molyneux is a freelance photojournalist from the UK, based in Granada.  Follow his work on instagram.com/molyneux_photography

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