The Dubrovnik Festival is an annual celebration of classical music, opera, dance and theatre held every summer in this fascinating walled city on the beautiful Adriatic coast of southern Croatia. Lasting for nearly 50 days throughout July and August, the Dubrovnik Summer Festival is the city’s major cultural event of the year and attracts performers and visitors from all around the world. Every year since its introduction in 1950, the Festival has hosted productions of the very highest quality. Currently, the Festival consists of an astonishing 3,778 different performances at more than 50 separate venues in and around this historic location.
Initially seen as a platform for national composers and musicians, the festival soon developed into an occasion when Croatia could meet the rest of the world so that, by 2009, it was calculated that well over 2,000 performers were here, originating from 40 different countries.
The city of Dubrovnik was extensively damaged during the break up of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, being subjected to a seven month siege and bombardment in 1991. However, within the city walls this damage has been meticulously repaired and the architectural glory of a city perched on a stunning stretch of coastline is, once again, fully evident. The buildings, streets and squares of the city now provide perfect backdrops for plays, concerts, recitals and dances; Dubrovnik is a true city of art. Some of the most impressive venues for performances during the festival include the Dominican Monastery, the Fortresses of Lovrjenac and Revelin, the atrium of the Rector’s Palace and the beautiful squares of Luza, Ruder Boskovic and, especially, Prid Dvorom – a wonderfully atmospheric plaza in front of the Rector’s Palace.
The Festival always begins with the ceremonial raising of the festival flag above St Blaise’s Church and a dramatic opening ceremony, complete with an evening Firework display. The closing concert, always a highlight of the programme, sees the lowering of the flag for another year.
Without doubt, Dubrovnik is an astoundingly pretty little city – it has fewer than 50,000 inhabitants. A World Heritage Site, listed as being endangered until 1998, walking around its beautifully preserved walls and admiring its meticulous Renaissance and Baroque architecture is a treat even without the benefit of a high class festival programme. It’s worthwhile pausing inside the main gates to the town and looking at the map which shows all of the artillery hits from less than 20 years ago – and, especially just outside the walls themselves, you’ll see plenty of evidence of buildings not yet fully restored.
Dubrovnik has its own International Airport, 20 kilometres south of the city, which has a good bus service into the centre. A wide range of airlines serve the destination from all over Europe.with extra services available during the peak summer months.
Some people like to arrive in Dubrovnik by boat – to take full advantage of the beauty of the coastline. The city is now a regular port of call for cruise ships which can, at times, make the centre very crowded. There are regular ferry services from the Italian ports of Ancona and Bari as well as ferry services down the Croatian coast. There is no rail access to Dubrovnik, so train travel would entail finishing with a bus journey from either Ploce or Split. A journey to the city by road would be very scenic, but also possibly quite time-consuming.
The Hilton Imperial is the city’s most prestigious hotel, and will be recognised from many news reports in the early 1990s. There are other extremely good quality hotels, however, such as the Excelsior and the Dubrovnik Palace and, additionally, there are many other less pricy possibilities. A comprehensive selection can be found at http://www.dubrovnik-online.com/english/hotel_list.php , along with information about hostels and the city’s one camp site.
The Dubrovnik Summer Festival generally runs from mid-July to late August. Full details of the programme and availability of tickets can be found on the Dubrovnik Festival website.