The Slovenia Times

"A Program is the Identity Card of the Artistic Director"

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In addition to the Ljubljana Festival, you also work on the Winter Festival and Slovenian Days of Music. With all these festivals, how much time do you need to organise the program and create new ideas for the Ljubljana Festival each year?

We will have the 66th Ljubljana Festival this year and as you mentioned, we also organise the Slovenian Days of Music which we held for the 33rd time this year and we started the Winter Festival only two years ago, in the beautiful concert hall of the Grand Hotel Union. So, of course, the most demanding is the Summer Festival and we start to organise each festival something like three or four years in advance, finishing just one year before the event.

Especially when you are dealing with big orchestras like the Munich Philharmonic, the Mariinsky Theatre or Israel Philharmonic, they of course plan their program at least two or three years in advance and so we have to adapt to it, otherwise we cannot compete for the dates. But then, of course, every festival is not only an artistic challenge but also a financial one. If we are successful enough with the city authorities and also the main financier (and also with the sponsors of course), then we can close the programming process and announce it, but it is never enough money and so there is always the risk of whether we are going to succeed in obtaining enough financiers. 

We plan the Slovene Days of Music one year in advance. It is a shorter festival, something like 10 days. But the speciality of this festival is the symposium with musicologists from all over the world. They come to Slovenia for four days to discuss special themes. Every year the theme is different and it is always determined by our team leader and then around the theme we plan the concerts. The concerts include not only Slovenian music but mainly all music written in Slovenian territory.

We arrange the Winter Festival because there is a gap in tourism in February and Ljubljana has become the newly crowded city in tourist seasons for winter holidays or summer. But, in February, after Christmas, it becomes calm and so we try to do something to not only attract our citizens but also tourists to come to Ljubljana.

Do you negotiate with local people for the events, celebrities, singers or bands? Do you consider people's expectations or only try new ideas on your own as the director of the festival? 

I decide on the events and artists. I am also the artistic director but, of course, we also have an artistic board which includes others and they mainly confirm the proposals I put on the table each year. And we also have the festival board which supervises the finances.

Does your personal taste, academic background and profession as an active concert clarinettist and soloist influence the flow and program of the Ljubljana Festival?

For sure! A program is the identity card of the artistic director, it is always personal. For sure, if someone else had my role, the program would be different. It is always.. not only my taste and expectations of course, but we go with our vision and try to explain to the audience that this is a high-quality event and convince them to trust us. And mostly they are very happy after the performances.

Since you became the Director of the Ljubljana Festival in 1995, how have you changed the form of the festival?

I have to say that the growth of the festival has been enormous in recent years, and particularly in the last 10 years we have grown really fast. So now, the Ljubljana Festival is one of the biggest European festivals. I came to the Ljubljana Festival as the Artistic Director in 1992, and then in 1995 I also became the General Director. In between, I was also a member of European Festivals Association board and until May 2017, I was the president of this association. So, all these roles helped me develop the Ljubljana Festival. It has changed a lot for sure. When I came in 1992 the festival was like a chamber music festival with something like 15-18 events and with very little budget. My first job was to convince the city authorities that Ljubljana deserved a bigger and better festival with more artists. At the beginning it was not easy. Then, year by year, the festival was more successful with more audiences. Ten years ago, we started with great development of all kinds of forms. We regularly invite huge opera houses such as I have mentioned already, the Mariinsky Theatre from St Petersburg, from Milano, Vienna, all the big orchestras, first class soloists, really top global names... So, I think, it is the way we are going to continue also in the future.

Have you witnessed a change in the number and profile of the participants? 

Yes, of course. The number grew threefold in these years. The profile has also changed. Honestly, I was afraid 20 years ago that our audience would become old in the following years but we adapted to the day with our programs. So, we also have a lot of events for young people. There are genres which are interesting for young people or middle-aged people. We also do educational programs such as workshops, MA classes and things like that, for very little children to teenagers, and these have enabled us to reach new audiences all the time. So, when you come to our halls, summer theatre or Congress Square, you will see all generations and I am very happy about that. 

And the foreign audience mainly comes from the neighbouring countries, from Italy, Austria and Croatia. And, of course, we have those audiences who fly around the world for special concerts and events. So, those festival people all around the world also come to our events.

What is the biggest event during the festival? What is the event that you can call irreplaceable and at the heart/core of the Ljubljana Festival? 

For sure, the opening. The opening always happens in Kongresni trg (Congress Square). We have, it depends on the event, from 5,000 to 10,000 visitors. We started to have the 'opening' in Congress Square in 2011 when the square was reconstructed. We opened with the Mahler 8 Symphony. We had 1,100 artists on the stage because it is a symphony of thousands. And this huge orchestra was conducted by Valeri Gelgijev, the famous conductor from the Mariinsky Theatre. This year, we are reconstructing the summer theatre here, Kri┼żanke and unfortunately we will not be able to finish the restoration until the beginning of the season. So, this year, we will hold all of our main program in Congress Square and Cankarjev dom. This maybe will give another dimension to the Ljubljana Festival because usually we only have the 'opening' in Congress Square, but now we will have more events there. I am quite excited about this and we will see how it will go.

What is special about the Ljubljana Festival? Why do you think people should visit Ljubljana during the festival?

Not only for the festival but also for Ljubljana because Ljubljana is a very little town with a huge tradition and history. It is a very giving city. So, it is small but cosmopolitan. And all of the city centre is reserved for pedestrians. So, you can walk around the city centre and there are a lot of restaurants and fantastic food. We are at the crossroad of several cultures so you can taste and feel it. Ljubljana is also a very safe city so you do not see the police in the centre because there is no need. Moreover, it is very clean and what is also very important is that we have clean, drinkable tap water everywhere in the country. I think this is really something. Slovenia is a small place but also around Ljubljana there are some nice places. If you drive in different directions, the climate, the nature, the food and even the dialect of the language change rapidly. So, in this small place, you can enjoy Hungarian, Balkan, Italian or Austrian. For these international influences and local culture as well, it is very pleasing to be here. Regarding the festival, we follow the highest standards in the quality of our concerts, we have beautiful venues and I think this is the main promise we offer to our visitors.
 

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