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The Dresden Music Festival

Muse- and Zwinger Festivals - The Predecessors of the Dresden Music Festival

 Festivals have long been a tradition in Dresden. The Saxon princes loved their tournaments, animal hunts, and stately processions in which art, music, song and dance played a very significant role. The court orchestra, the choir of the Kreuzkirche as well as the opera and ballet personnel would all be needed to stage their ambitious projects, and at times the nobility, too, took an active role.

As far as these celebrations were concerned, the rule was: the more opulent, the better. After all, Dresden was in competition with the other European noble families for the reputation as the most splendid court. The festival cycle of 1678, entitled "Durchlauchtigste Zusammenkunft" (roughly meaning "Highly Majestic Gathering") is an example of the court´s imagination knowing no boundaries in matters of festivities. The ensuing spectacle of "The Seven Planets" boasted tournaments, operas, hunts, ballets and spectacular fireworks.

The Dresden Music Festival owes ist origin also to another kind of event: a royal wedding in Dresden! In the course of the marriage celebrations of the Saxon Prince to Maria Josepha, daughter of Emperor Joseph I, which lasted 28 days, the Dresden Zwinger was officially opened on 15 September 1719. With the Zwinger being a Banquet Hall Under The Stars, the Muse Festival received a setting par excellence built from solid Saxon sandstone.

And for the Dresden Music Festival today, the Zwinger has remained an outstanding setting. This magnificent baroque building is used for great opera productions such as this year´s Der Barbier von Sevilla (The Barber of Seville) by Gioacchino Rossini.

The founding of the Dresden Music Festival - World class by decree every year 

The actual founding of the Dresden Music Festival, only came much later. The Dresden Music Festival first took place in 1978, as decreed: starting in 1978, there will be an annually held Music Festival of international status in Dresden! (Decision of the central committee of the Social United Party of Germany and the GDR Council of Ministers)

And even though such "art orders from above" often failed frequently elsewhere, in Dresden the official art decree worked out. Indeed, great artists came, in over 20 years of festival history: Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Claudio Abbado, La Scala Milan, Zubin Mehta, and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Illustrous names continue to grace today´s festival events. A sign maybe of a continuing tradition of court celebrations on stages of sandstone, rather than one based on the ground of political art decrees in state manifestoes.

The Dresden Music Festival since 1994 

The Dresden Music Festival has had a remarkable run since 1994 - especially in terms of its audiences. The festival attracts an average of 100,000 music lovers per year - of whom approximately half come from Dresden. The rest come here to the festival from all over the world.

The festival atmosphere is unique in Dresden, and as irresistable as ever. Every year, 80 events take place within two and a half "event crowded" weeks. And even though the great hunts and tournaments are past, the tradition of the great operas, ballets, and fireworks continues in the Dresden Music Festival. New additions are orchestra- and chamber concerts. Performances are given in all of the city´s important theaters and concert halls: the Semper Opera, which has been in use since its reopening in 1985, the Zwinger, the Theater Schauspielhaus, the Church of Our Lady, the baroque church Hofkirche, and August The Strong´s summer residence in Pillnitz.

All Dresden's significant ensembles take part in the festival events, as do the famous Dresden State Orchestra, which celebrated its 450th birthday last year, and the 100 years older Dresden choir Kreuzchor, who performed this year in the opening concert of a Flamenco Mass by Paco Pena.

Hardly any other German city has such a fascinating and substantial music tradition as Dresden. Wagner, Strauss, Schumann, Vivaldi and Schütz all lived and worked in Dresden. On the occasion of Johann Adolf Hasse´s 300th birthday, the Dresden Music Festival celebrated the composer, who worked as a conductor in Dresden and composing 25 operas for Dresden alone. His opera Solimano, first performanced on the occasion of the Dresden carnival in 1753, experienced its new discovery in this year. However, the resources at the disposal of the the arts today do not suffice to stage Hasse´s baroque operas in their full grandiose extent: his original script calls for 600 by-standers, elephants, camels, and jumping leopards.

Similar "rediscoveries" by the Dresden Music Festival have enriched the international music world. A number of operas that were written in Dresden have been put on in the last years: Hasse´s operas Artemisia and Attilio Regolo; the opera Azis e Galatea by his successor Johann Gottlieb Naumann; the German Musical Opera of Apollo and Dafne by Giuseppe Peranda and Giovanni Andrea Bontempi.

The production of new music is also one of the tasks of the Dresden Music Festival: more than 100 premieres have been performed within the framework of the Dresden Music Festival so far. In the last years, notably, the opera Der zerbrochene Krug (The Broken Jug) by Viktor Ullmann. In addition, the Dresden Music Festival participated in the first performance of the opera Farinelli by Siegfried Matthus (the Neapolitanian castrato sang in Dresden)


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