8 Jazz Festivals to suit all tastes

2014-07-30 09:10

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London - From picnicking at Glyndebourne to tippling a Riesling in the Rheingau region of Germany, it's the ideal time to relax and hear an opera or a favourite jazz performer at festivals anywhere from the Swiss alps to Johannesburg. Here is a selection highlighted by Reuters journalists.

1. Glyndebourne
Glyndbourne, Lewes, England, May 17-Aug 24

It's famous for its traditional English-style hamper picnics on the beautifully manicured lawns and at tables on the exterior balconies of the opera house. But it is the music-making that goes on inside that really counts. Productions this year include Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier, Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Handel's Rinaldo and Verdi's La Traviata. But what sets the Glyndebourne regulars' hearts aflutter are the productions of Mozart for which the house is justly famous, and the two this year are “Don Giovanni” and “La Finta Giardiniera” that had its premiere in 1775 just before Mozart's 19th birthday. Tickets 50 -215 pounds (about R900 to R3 800).

Michael Roddy

2. Rheingau Music Festival
Various venues, Rheingau region of Germany, June 28-Sept 13

This in some respects is a wine-region tour with a music festival attached, with so much going on it boggles the mind. Suffice to say that a festival that can encompass everything from an opening concert tribute to Shakespeare's birthday with sopranos Miah Persson and Golda Schulz to jazz great Bobby McFerrin “and friends” to a kiddie concert featuring Bert and Ernie, the Muppet characters from “Sesame Street”, is eclectic, to say the least. Other names on tap include pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard and violinist Julia Fischer, while the festival's composer and artist in residence is Jorg Widmann, a top-notch clarinetist and cutting-edge composer all in one. A rolling feast of fun, an hour's drive from Frankfurt and with ticket prices in the 15-to-80 euro range. And don't forget to sample the Riesling.

Ilona Wissenbach/Michael Roddy

3. Joy of Jazz
Johannesburg, South Africa, Sept 25-27

South Africans are steeped in music and even wintry weather will not keep them away from a good groove. Dianne Reeves, Billy Ocean, Delfeayo Marsalis, Gregory Porter and Roy Hargrove will feature at the 14th installation of the annual festival. South African stars include Sibongile Khumalo and Jonas Gwangwa. The venue is moving away from the downtown Newtown precinct to the Sandton Convention Centre.

A two-day pass costs R1 250 ranIf all the dancing doesn't leave you bone tired, head out to Soweto and check out Vilakazi Street, former home to two Nobel Peace laureates. Take a tour of the Mandela House museum then try some tripe at the vibrant Samkhumzi Restaurant, a stone's throw away from Archbishop Tutu's residence.

For more on South Africa's apartheid past, stroll over to the Hector Pieterson museum or visit the Apartheid Museum close to downtown Johannesburg, or Liliesleaf Farm and Museum in Rivonia.

4. Utrecht Early Music Festival
Utrecht, Netherlands, Aug 29-Sept 7

Now in its fourth decade, the festival in the picturesque university town builds on a strong Dutch early music tradition, built up over decades by great performers such as the late harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt. This year, the festival focuses on the baroque composers of the Habsburg lands, in particular the music of Baroque-era Prague and Vienna. Visitors can listen to live performances of works by some of Bach's and Handel's most accomplished contemporaries, including Isaac, Biber, Fux and the Bohemian composer Zelenka. Highlights include performances by violinist Gunar Letzbor and his ensemble Ars Antiqua Austria, and Vaclav Luks's ensemble Collegium 1704 playing baroque repertoire from Prague. Tickets 10-36 euros. (oudemuziek.nl)

Thomas Escritt

5. Verbier Festival
Verbier, Switzerland, July 18-Aug 3

This festival making efficient summertime use of a Swiss ski resort has been described as the music world's equivalent of the annual Davos economic summit - and for good reason. Pianist Martha Argerich has been a regular since the festival started 20 years ago, and her august presence assures not just a high standard of music-making, but also the recruitment of an elite crew of musicmakers.

This year's crop includes cellist Steven Isserlis, guest conductors Marc Minkowski, Ivan Fischer and Daniel Harding, pianist Evgeny Kissin and singers Vittorio Grigolo, Thomas Hampson, Rene Pape, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Ramon Vargas and Rolando Villazon. There's also a world music night with Senegalese troubadour Youssou N'Dour to leaven the loaf.

Ticket prices 45-180 Swiss francs. Hotel space is not cheap but is available, thanks to the ski resort locale. ()

Michael Roddy

6. Salzburg Festival
Salzburg, Austria, July 13-Aug 31

This year's Salzburg Festival continues the tradition at one of the world's most prestigious music venues of being cutting edge and dripping with luxury at the same time. For those who want to know where opera is going, French composer Marc-Andre Dalbavie, steeped in the spectral school, teams up with librettist Barbara Honigmann and director Luc Bondy for “Charlotte Salomon”, based on the work of the Jewish artist gassed at Auschwitz. For those who take their opera star-powered, Anna Netrebko and Placido Domingo pair up for a new production of Verdi's “Il Trovatore” by Alvis Hermanis. Throw in “Der Rosenkavalier” directed by Harry Kupfer for the occasion of Strauss's 150th anniversary, and Gustavo Dudamel conducting in the festival's parallel concert series, and it is a festive time indeed. Prices 16-420 euros.

Michael Roddy

7. Bregenzer Festspiele
Lake Constance, Austria, July 23-Aug 5

The Bregenzer Festspiele on the shore of Lake Constance in western Austria features Mozart's “The Magic Flute”. The festival runs from July 23 to August 25 this year, with the premiere on July 24. David Pountney is artistic director for the event, whose spectacular sets on a stage perched above the lake make for dramatic viewing. Tickets start at 29 euros and go up to 300. The show goes on even if it is raining lightly. Organisers recommend bringing waterproof clothing rather than umbrellas, which block the view.

Michael Shields

8. Koktobel Festivals
Odessa, Ukraine, Sept 11-14/Koktobel, Crimea, Sept 12-15

After 11 years of being one of the largest music festivals in the post-Soviet region, following Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea in March, the open-air jazz fest in the resort town of Koktobel has split into two events. The Koktebel Jazz Festival will take place Sept. 11-14 in Zatoka and Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, in Ukraine's Odessa region, some 50 km (30 miles) from Odessa. Britain's Get the Blessing is among the headliners, and remaining tickets available via the website are going for 599 hryvnias (around $50) (koktebel.info). The Koktebel Jazz Party will take place Sept. 12-15 in Koktebel, a resort town in southeastern Crimea. Tickets are not available yet, but organisers say they will be sold by the peninsula's Moscow-backed authorities and proceeds will go to the local government. The Jamal Thomas Band (USA), Deborah Brown (USA) and Valery Ponomaryov (USA) are among the headliners. ()

Lidia Kelly

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