Groundbreaking edition 2018


The 71st Holland Festival closed on Sunday 1 July 2018 with George Benjamin's opera Lessons in Love and Violence, a co-production with the Dutch National Opera. After the Friends' performance of Tiefer Schweb on Friday evening, friends and partners of the Holland Festival bid farewell to parting artistic director Ruth Mackenzie with a standing ovation. This month the new associate artists, visual artist and theatre maker William Kentridge and choreographer Faustin Linyekula, started working with the permanent artistic team on the Holland Festival's 2019 programme.

In Ruth Mackenzie's fourth and final edition, free and accessible art went hand in hand with ground-breaking performances and collaborations. 41 companies performed 107 productions in 25 days. With more than 83,000 visitors, the festival achieved an average seat occupancy of 80%. The free events - including Longplayer in the tower of the Lloyd Hotel, Danse des guerriers de la ville, Opera in the Park (a live screening of Les contes d'Hoffmann), Ralph Lemon's Chorus at the entrance to the Stedelijk Museum, lunch concerts and other free context activities - accounted for 16,000 visitors.

There were many new names in the programme - artists who had never been seen before in the Netherlands. The performances SAIGON by Caroline Guiela Nguyen and Stadium by Mohamed El Khatib, both from France, provided much material for discussion. In the dance programming, Anne Nguyen from France and Nadia Beugré from Côte d’Ivoire were innovative. The National Changgeuk Company of Korea and director Ong Keng Sen's opera Trojan Women was impressive. The Dutch artists Colin Benders and Arno Schuitemaker made their debuts at this year's festival with new productions. Both Benders with his Electro Symphonic Orchestra at the Holland Festival Proms and Schuitemaker with his dance performance The Way You Sound Tonight explored the limits of their disciplines.

Contemporary Artists
As well as up-and-coming artists, we presented established artists. Steve McQueen was at Loods 6 for three weeks with his video installation End Credits. There were long queues at the Stadsschouwburg for Tanztheater Wuppertal’s first new, full-length performance since Pina Bausch's death; Neues Stück 1 - Seit sie, directed by Greek artist Dimitris Papaioannou. The Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas and his wife Mollena Lee Williams-Haas surprised the audience with HYENA, a narrative concert about Mollena's alcoholism. Gisèle Vienne returned to the festival with Crowd, Ivo van Hove’s Toneelgroep Amsterdam performed its hit performance Roman tragedies in Carré for the first time, the Flemish actors’ collective FC Bergman presented its spectacular production JR at the Central Market Hall in Amsterdam West, and the Nederlands Kamerkoor and De Warme Winkel explored the boundaries of good taste with musical theatre about the Italian composer and murderer Carlo Gesualdo.

Theme: Borders and Boundaries
Other companies and performances also explored boundaries this year - it was a recurring theme at this edition. Several double concerts crossed national borders. The Armenian Gurdjieff Ensemble played together with the Hewar ensemble from Syria. The Dutch Metropole Orkest shared the stage with members of the Syrian Big Band in Carré. The Kronos Quartet went a step further, spending an entire day at the Muziekgebouw and the Bimhuis with numerous international guests. Figurative boundaries were also explored, like those between artists and the audience, the various art disciplines and the limits of permissible behaviour. The dividing lines between music, film and visual art were overturned in the opening performance Richters Patterns, a concert with film based on work by German painter Gerhard Richter. Overstepping social boundaries was the subject of performances such as Gesualdo and Crowd.

Sir George Benjamin
George Benjamin, one of the most important composers of our time, was the composer in focus at this year's Holland Festival. In a special programme, which the festival produced in consultation with the composer, we showed the music theatrical development in his work - from his first vocal composition to his very latest opera Lessons in Love and Violence. The programme also included a concert performance of his opera Written on Skin, the composition Sometime Voices at the Holland Festival Proms, and an evening in Pathé Tuschinski with the composer accompanying a silent film classic by Fritz Lang on piano.

Digital Art
Ruth Mackenzie made digital art one of the key elements of the Holland Festival. The result this year was a day at the Muziekgebouw in which two musical computer games could be experienced live: Dear Esther and Oikospiel II: Heat Cantata. Kronos Quartet and visual artist Trevor Paglen also presented the multimedia concert Sight Machine about the ubiquity of artificial intelligence. 

VPRO Audience Favourites
The audience was able to assess performances or concerts using a voting card and the Holland Festival App. Its top three were: Kronos Sessions with Ladilikan, the National Changgeuk Company of Korea's Trojan Women and Toneelgroep Amsterdam's Roman tragedies. Other favourites were George Benjamin's Written on Skin with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, FC Bergman's JR and Tanztheater Wuppertal's Neues Stück 1 - Seit sie with Dimitris Papaioannou.

Give an extra
The Holland Festival participated in the Do an Encore campaign, organised by the Dutch union of performing arts festivals (De Verenigde Podiumkunstenfestivals). The audience was asked to contribute towards the costs of a ticket for someone without the financial means to buy a ticket for a performance. More than € 2,600 euros were donated, enabling the Holland Festival to give away more than 400 tickets, in collaboration with the Protestantse Diaconie, the Dutch Refugee Council and IMC Weekendschool.

In the run-up to Holland Festival 2019, the organisation will proceed with a modified organisational model, with Annet Lekkerkerker as general director and one or two artists as associate artists. New work by them will be presented and part of the festival programme will be devised in conjunction with them. The associate artists for the Holland Festival 2019 are choreographer Faustin Linyekula (Democratic Republic of Congo, 1974) and visual artist and theatre maker William Kentridge (South Africa, 1955). The festival is also presenting aus LICHT in 2019, a three-day marathon with many highlights from Karlheinz Stockhausen's LICHT cycle.