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Vadim Fishkin. Miss Christmas. 2012

Infection with the Urge to Enjoy Culture 0

On the weekend following midsummer's eve, all roads will lead to Cēsis. The art festival “Cēsis 2013” will be held from 28 June through 20 July this year – a month earlier than usual. According to the organizers of the festival, the date had to be changed because of the time restrictions imposed by the EU program “Culture 2007-20013”, which is providing financial assistance to the Cēsis Castle Guild for participating in the international cooperative project “Experiment and Excellence”.

Nevertheless, the festival's organizers' promise of giving visitors to the festival “a great occasion, the kind that we like ourselves,” as Juris Žagars – director of the festival since its inception seven years ago, and a true citizen of Cēsis – told in an express interview.

This year, the festival will be offering up more than 30 events in the fields of visual art, music, film, theater, and even the culinary arts, which is a new addition this year. Gundega Skudriņa's scheduled two-hour-long intriguing culinary performance, “An Untamed Dinner”, is in production with stage designer Rūdolfs Baltiņš and chef Lauris Aleksejevs. It's going to be a research-oriented, surprise-filled trip into the world of flavor. “Cuisine theater is a world-wide trend that is radically new for Latvia,” Žagariņš tells, and adds that the festival wants to gather even more diverse cultural fields, in order to take advantage of “the spiritual aggregate that concentrates in Cēsis every summer.”

“Another new thing this year is a foreign curator for the visual arts exhibition in the Cēsu Alus Brūzis (Cēsu Beer Brewery), because in previous years it has always been organized by Latvians,” says Žagars. The group show “Vasaras lasījumi / Summer Readings” is being curated by Ķestutis Kuizinas, head of the Vilnius Contemporary Art Center (CAC), and will feature artists from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Mexico, Moldova, the UK, Switzerland, Argentina, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. The exhibition is being put together as a study of the interaction between contemporary art and literature, theater and film. 

“Thanks to the initiative of the Lithuanian curator, this will be the first time that the art works will be heading out into the urban environment, outside of the brick walls of the Brewery,” reveals Žagars of this new plan. Another first for the festival will be the use of the territory that was once the old Cēsu printing-house – it will be the location of Karlīna Vītoliņa's (1982) solo show, “Portreti”, which consists of approximately 70 large-scale, black-and-white photographs. Vītoliņa is a relative newcomer on the Latvian photography scene; even though her work is often published in local fashion magazines, a first-time solo show is always intriguing and exciting to see. The Cēsu Izstāžu nams (Cēsis Exhibition Hall) will host the exhibition “Bezdibenis. Visvaldis Ziediņš / Bottomless Pit. Visvaldis Ziediņš”, which will feature pieces by the artist Visvaldis Ziediņš (1942-2007) that have never been publicly shown before. The show will focus on Ziediņš's works done on paper, and various studies of nature. It should be noted that Ziediņš's body of work consists of over 3000 pieces, placing him squarely into the category of Latvian non-conformist, avant-garde artists. The public-at-large was introduced to the work of Ziediņš in the autumn of 2012, with the solo show “Kustība. Visvaldis Ziediņš. / Movement. Visvaldis Ziediņš”, which was held in the Latvian National Museum of Art's exhibition hall Arsenāls, and curated by art historian Ieva Kulakova.

On a side-note, the festival will also be providing guided tours for the first time this year.

Three theatrical productions by the young and thought-provoking director from Latvia, Vladislavs Nastavševs (who has also started upon a successful international career) make up the foundation of the festival's theatrical program: the Latvian National Theater's production of “Vecene / Crone”, and the Valmiera Theater's “Jūlijas jaunkundze / Miss Jūlija” and “Macbeth”, which premiered just recently.

Film-lovers will have the opportunity to see a selection of 13 British film classics chosen by film historian Valentīna Freimane; the first showing will be the 1933 comedy “The Private Life of Henry VIII”, on Sunday, 30 June. The film had great international success in its day, making its director –  the Hungarian Alexander Korda – Britain's leading film director of the time, and its lead actor – Charles Lauhgton – a movie star. 

The diversity of the festival's musical program this year is indicated by the names of its participants: Radio koris / The Latvian Radio Choir, Sigvards Kļava, Roberts Rubīns, Ksenija Sidorova, Sinfonietta Rīga, Raimonds Pauls, Kaspars Zemītis, Daumants Kalniņš, Ilona Bagele, the professional brass orchestra “Rīga”, Mārtiņš Ozoliņš, Andris Poga, the Latvian National Symphonic Orchestra, Reinis Zariņš, the Vidzeme Chamber Orchestra, Andris Veismanis, Sandis Šteinbergs, and others. A special guest at the festival will be Belgium's Student Orchestra.

The festival will come to a close on 20 July with the Liepāja Theater's production of the musical “Pūt, vējiņi! / Blow, wind!”, in the open-air Cēsis Amphitheater. It has received rave reviews from both critics and the public alike, garnering five nominations from the Latvian Theater Awards 2011/2012, as well as the top honors from Latvia's leading cultural television program. 

“Cēsis is a city with optimal conditions for holding a festival,” stresses Juris Žagars. “First of all, the city is close enough to Riga. Distance is a primary factor for festivals of this kind. Secondly, the city is very compact. Thirdly, Cēsis has very many sites suited for cultural events – the cultural and artistic infrastructure is developed. If we look at how much is being invested in cultural tourism and infrastructure per inhabitant, I'd say that there is no other city in Latvia, perhaps even in the Baltics, that has done as much as Cēsis.” The current population of Cēsis is more than 18 thousand people, and by the end of the year they will have a new multifunctional concert hall – the Vidzeme Music and Cultural Center – designed by architect Juris Poga. The center will be located in the one-hundred-year-old Cēsis community center building on Raunas iela 12, which is currently under renovation.

Last year's “Cēsis 2012” art festival boasted the largest number of people attending yet – more than 16,500 visitors. Undoubtedly, the festival has a big impact on the city's economic prospects for the summer season. Be that as it may, Juris Žagars tells how happy he is that the citizens of the city become “infected” with the urge to enjoy culture. “If the people of Cēsis have a positive cultural experience in the summer, then hopefully, they will look for something similar during the rest of the year as well. Iinfection with the urge to enjoy art and culture – that is one of the effects of the festival.”