Dubrovnik, itself a breathtaking piece of art, is the perfect setting for the Dubrovnik Summer Festival. This program of classical music, theater and dance is performed at more than 70 open-air venues from 10 July until 25 August. Performing artists from all over the world take part in 47 days of musical and theatrical extravaganza. You might recognize some names. Prior to becoming a heartthrob on the televisions series ER, Goran Visnjic performed in Hamlet for many years. Other past performers have included Daniel Day Lewis and Judy Densch.
Started in 1950, the Festival has occurred each summer except for the year following the bombardment and destruction of Dubrovnik in the Homeland War. It was May 1992 when the Croatian Army liberated Dubrovnik, after 7 months of shelling. In place of an opening ceremony during 1992, local residents lit candles on the steps of Sveti Vlaho church while a radio played Anthem to Freedom to the deserted Stradun.
This past Sunday evening was the opening ceremony for the 2011 Festival. As the clock tower struck 9pm, Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra and Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, our Libertas Choir, the Dubrovnik Choir and Split Choir performed the Croatian National Anthem at the steps of Sveti Vlaho Church. The old town had swelled with locals and guests covering the entire Stradun as the orchestra began to play.
Each year it has been customary to following the National Anthem with the traditional Lindo dance performed by our local ensemble. This year the organizers broke with tradition and a dance troupe from Zagreb performed a modern dance, which was interesting but also very confusing. The performing actors then arrived in the Placa, awaiting the appearance of the Rector of Dubrovnik. He entered in full costume on the balcony of the Sponza Palace to announce: The Festival is open!
The opening has always ended with the raising of the Libertas flag on Orlando’s column as the orchestras play the prelude to the Anthem to Freedom and the choirs sing. This is quite moving for the people who understand how Libertas is a recurring theme in Dubrovnik and there were many tears streaming down the faces in the crowd. The Libertas flag began to billow in the small wind and will remain on Orlando’s column until the last day, the last minute of the festival.