The history of performing arts festivals dates back to the 18th century – the Three Choirs Festival and the Norfolk and Norwich Festival in England are known as the oldest ongoing arts festivals in the world. Performing arts festivals serve as a spectacular venue for art lovers, makers, and enthusiasts to come together and celebrate the overlaying beauty and excitement that make up the arts. Popular tourist destinations, from Hong Kong to Paris, in countries all around the world, hold performing arts festivals to not only showcase their culture and traditions but also facilitate and encourage cultural and arts exchange with others. If you’re an avid festival-goer, here are some of the top performing arts festivals you don’t want to miss out on.
New York City: APAP|NYC
APAP|NYC is the annual membership conference of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP), held over several days in January. This conference is the “world’s largest networking forum and marketplace for performing arts professionals.” Past notable keynote and plenary speakers include Rita Moreno, Ira Glass, and Stephen Schwartz. In addition to professional development and networking sessions, APAP|NYC hosts a performing arts festival, spanning over 1,000 artist showcases.
Hong Kong: Hong Kong Arts Festival
The Hong Kong Arts Festival, which is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, is dedicated to showcasing cultural and performing arts programs from all over the world. This year’s edition took place from February 16th to March 19th, with the theme ‘in the moment’ in place throughout the festival. Veteran musicians and performing groups, such as cellist Truls Mørk and the Oslo Philharmonic, to local Hong Kong artists from the Festival PLUS program, are some of the upcoming acts to be featured.
Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi Festival
This year was the 14th edition of the Abu Dhabi Festival, which took place throughout the month of March. This year’s festival theme was dedicated to celebrating the importance of culture and tolerance in the performing arts. The performance lineup consisted of elite performing artists and musicians, including nine-time GRAMMY award-winning US jazz legend Wynton Marsalis, Portuguese fado singer Mariza, and more.
Adelaide: Adelaide Festival
Held annually since 1960, the Adelaide Festival is one of the most celebrated and renowned performing arts festivals in the world. This year’s edition, co-directed by Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy, took place from March 3rd to the 19th. Some of the must-see performances were Shakespeare’s Richard III from Schaubühne Berline, directed by Thomas Ostermeier, and a “symphonic visual concert” of Prima Donna, presented by Rufus Wainwright.
Istanbul: Istanbul International Dance Festival
The Istanbul International Dance Festival hosted its 6th annual edition this year from March 29th to April 3rd. This Latin dance festival is one of the world’s biggest, featuring six days of dancing and entertainment and bringing together over 3,500 dancers worldwide. In addition to the live shows and concerts, attendees also attended dance workshops and boot camps for their own personal and professional development in dance.
Prague: Prague Spring International Music Festival
The Prague Spring International Music Festival celebrated its 72nd anniversary this year, from May 12th to June 2nd. This festival is home to showcasing performances by renowned artists, orchestras, and chamber music groups from all around the world. It is also dedicated to commemorating important musical anniversaries by including special works by composers on its lineup. Some of the performers on this year’s lineup was the award-winning Sacconi Quartet to legendary jazz trumpet player Laco Déczi with Celula New York.
Bergen: Bergen International Festival
The Bergen International Festival, held annually since 1953, is the largest festival in the Nordic region. It is dedicated to showcasing music and cultures from all over the world. This year’s edition took place from May 24th to June 7th. Notable performers included celebrated pianist Lang Lang, who performed Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor and other works, and Joachim Carr, who was this year’s soloist in Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, the signature work of this festival.
Montreux: Montreux Jazz Festival
This jazz festival, held every year since 1967 in July on the Lake Geneva shoreline, is the second largest in the world. Jazz legends such as Herbie Hancock and George Clinton to rock artists such as B.B. King and Chuck Berry have graced the stage at this renowned festival. Although the set-list for this year, which will be held from June 30th to July 15th, has not been announced yet, music enthusiasts are sure to see a stellar lineup of jazz and rock musicians and newcomers.
Cooperstown: Glimmerglass Festival
Held at the Alice Busch Opera Theater in Cooperstown, New York since 1975, the Glimmerglass Festival is well-known for showcasing new and lesser-known works. This year’s festival lineup, which will run from July 7th to August 22nd, will have four mainstage productions, which include Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! And Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Noteworthy to see outside of the main stage is the world premiere of Stomping Grounds, a show that fuses hip-hop, spoken word, and opera altogether.
Avignon: Festival d’Avignon
Founded in 1947 by Jean Vilar, the Festival d’Avignon is an annual performing arts festival hosted during the month of July in the Palais des Papes and other locations in Avignon. This year’s edition is set to take place between July 6th to the 26th. Announced in March, the program lineup will highlight Africa, women, and struggles for rights, featuring French ex-Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, director Katie Mitchell and the Birgit Ensemble. Past notable performers that have graced the Festival d’Avignon include Renaud Herbin, Marie Chouinard, and Maria Casarès.
Toronto: SummerWorks Performance Festival
SummerWorks, Canada’s largest curated performing arts festival, hosts more than 500 live theatre, music, and dance acts performed by artists worldwide. Founded in 1991, SummerWorks is recognized as an incubator for new talent and work within the performing arts. This year’s edition, which will take place from August 3rd to the 13th, will showcase acts that “explore experimental environments as well as those that stimulate new and unexpected creative collaborations.”
Edinburgh: Edinburgh International Festival
This annual international performing arts festival has been bringing together eminent musicians, performers, and dancers to Edinburgh, Scotland since its inauguration in 1947. The upcoming 2017 edition (program details to be announced) will be held between August 4th to the 28th. Notable highlights from last year’s festival include John Tiffany’s interpretation of The Glass Menagerie and Scottish singer-songwriter Emma Pollock.
WOMEX is a world music expo held annually in different locations throughout Europe. This year’s edition will be held from October 25th to the 29th in Katowice, Poland, a center for folk and contemporary music genres. WOMEX is committed to diversity and consists of an exciting trade fair, conference and film programs, and a performing arts festival dedicated to showcasing and celebrating a variety of performing arts acts.
Cover photo by Christophe Raynaud de Lage.