Holland Festival celebrated its 70th birthday

The Holland Festival's 70th edition ended on Sunday evening with the performance Lady Eats Apple by Back to Back Theatre from Melbourne. The festival presented 168 performances in 23 days. The festival programme was bigger than normal in this special birthday year. The festival drew more than 98,000 visitors and had a seat occupancy of over 80 %. The artistic director Ruth Mackenzie's third edition included many free and inexpensive performances which made the festival more accessible. The free events - including Opera in the Park in Frankendael park, Boris Charmatz’s danse de nuit at the Anton de Komplein and I'd rather be outside at the Museumplein – drew more than 37,000 visitors.

The festival gave a platform to some artists new to the Netherlands such as Derrick Ryan Claude Mitchell with his much-discussed Promised Ends. Dimitris Papaioannou's The Great Tamer was magnificent theatre of movement. José Vidal touched many young members of the audience with his ritual about solidarity and collectivity. The American theatre maker Dan Hurlin presented violent futurist puppet theatre. The Nile Project concluded the Holland Festival Proms, which united various music styles from the region around the Nile.

Dutch artists
There was also plenty of attention for Dutch artists who had not previously performed at the festival. As well as Eric de Vroedt's The Nation, Huba de Graaff presented a new musical theatre piece, The Naked Shit Songs inspired by Gilbert & George’s famous interview with Dutch journalist Theo Van Gogh at the festival. Lucas and Arthur Jussen and Sinta Wullur made their debut at the Holland Festival Proms. The brothers Jussen triumphed with MANTRA, Stockhausen's hypnotic composition for two pianos. Wullur presented a large chromatic gamelan concert with a vocal ensemble. Another great success was Dries Verhoeven's Phobiarama on Mercatorplein. Co-produced by the Holland Festival, it will tour several festivals in the coming period.

Big names
Big names were of course indispensable for an anniversary edition. Robert Lepage moved the Stadschouwburg Amsterdam with 887, a romantic retrospect of his youth. Peter Sellars returned to the festival with Flexn; Alain Platel thrilled Carré with nicht schlafen, a choreography on music composed by Mahler. At the same theatre, Jude Law and Halina Reijn performed together in Obsession by Toneelgroep Amsterdam and Ivo van Hove. Cate Blanchett starred in the 13 films created with Julian Rosenfeldt. Florian Boesch sang with the Austrian musicbanda Franui in the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ. The great tenor Jonas Kaufmann and the famous Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek gave an unrivalled concert in the Concertgebouw. Previous Holland Festival Artistic Director Pierre Audi directed the opening performance Mariavespers by Claudio Monteverdi.  

The theme democracy
The anniversary edition featured a topical theme. Many of the artists explored the problems facing Western democracies including Romeo Castellucci who revisited the origins of American democracy. National Theatre of Great Britain from London found the 'voice of the voiceless' in Brexit Britain. The Public Theater from New York and Flexn from Brooklyn reflected also on impact of politics on the lives of ordinary people. Thomas Bellinck and Dieudonné Niangouna amongst others focused on refugee issues. The Dutch National Theatre presented a Dutch State of the Nation by Eric de Vroedt, and Cate Blanchett performed manifestos from over 63 different artsits in Julian Rosefeldt's video installation Manifesto.

Music focus
The music programming focused on contemporary compositions from various parts of Indonesia. The concert Ruang Suara presented a new generation of Indonesian composers. The music in silent dance film Setan Jawa was live performed by the Rahayu Supanggah Gamelan Orchestra and the Dutch Chamber Orchestra. And in Paradiso the festival presented Indonesian pop, folk noise and dance. Several concerts also devoted attention to the American composer George Crumb's music, with the world premiere of his new piano cycle Metamorphoses, Book 1, performed by Margaret Leng Tan. The Ragazze Quartet performed his famous string quartet Black Angels. As a prelude to aus LICHT in 2019, students from the Royal Conservatoire played ORCHESTER-FINALISTEN from Stockhausen's MITTWOCH.

Digital art
As in previous years, the Holland Festival commissioned new work for the digital domain. Eric de Vroedt wrote a seventh episode of The Nation which can be viewed with VR glasses. Ruben van Leer made a virtual environment for Kate Moore's Sacred Environment at the Holland Festival Proms, which can be seen from Wednesday at www.hollandfestival.nl. The concert robots/non/robots used percussion robots.

VPRO Audience favourites
The top 3 audience favourites chosen by audience vote were: Jonas Kaufmann's concert with Eva-Maria Westbroek; MANTRA by Lucas and Arthur Jussen and Sacred Environment by Kate Moore. Other favourites are: Monteverdi’s Mariavespers by Dutch National Opera (4), 887 by Robert Lepage (5) and The Great Tamer (6) by Dimitris Papaioannou.

The festival is pleased that FONDS 21 will continue to be its main partner. The fund has affirmed its commitment to the Holland Festival in 2018 and 2019. The Holland Festival is proud of this long-term commitment, enabling the festival to make programming accessible to the widest and youngest possible audience. The Holland Festival is subsidised by the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the municipality of Amsterdam, and was made possible in part thanks to the support of its patron FONDS 21, Stichting Ammodo, BankGiro Loterij Fonds and Rabobank Amsterdam. These contributions and those of jubilee sponsors, other corporate sponsors, foundations and many individuals gave the festival a sound financial footing in 2017.