“If’t be summer news,
Smile to’t before…” (Imogen in Cymbeline)
Summertime has always meant Shakespeare festivals to me. Growing up in Western New York, I annually attended Buffalo’s Shakespeare in Delaware Park and the Canadian Stratford Festival was only a few hours drive away. The New York Times recently offered a listing of the major U.S./Canadian summer Shakespeare offerings, and today I would like to offer a brief list of some of the major European Shakespeare festivals.
Letní Shakespearovské slavnosti (25 June- 7 September): This Summer Shakespeare Festival, located in Prague (including performances at Prague Castle), is the oldest and largest theater festival al fresco in Europe aimed at putting the works of William Shakespeare. The emergence of the festival was initiated by President Václav Havel, when Prague Castle was opened to artists in order to attract the public to the Castle. The festival’s first performance took place in 1990 and since 1998, the festivities are held regularly. This year’s plays include: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Taming of the Shrew, Richard III (in two different productions/ translations: Czech and Slovak), Merry Wives of Windsor, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and Twelfth Night.
Summer Shakespeare Festival Ostrava (22 July- 9 August): This sister festival to the above Prague summer Shakespeare festival wills showcase five of the above plays: Midsummer Night’s Dream, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Merry Wives of Windsor, Richard III, and Love’s Labour’s Lost.
Shakespeare Festival in Globe Neuss (13 June-13 July): “There has been a reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the racecourse in Neuss since 1991 and it is here, every year in Summer, that the works of the Bard of Elizabethan England are given new life. The festival shows productions from all over the world, including, most importantly of course, performances in the original language of Shakespeare. The authentic theatre experience – direct and up close, from the 500 seats of the Neuss.”
This festival, running from 13 June- 13July, offers a variety of renderings of Shakespeare’s works, including visiting international companies, lectures, and musical adaptations. Now in its 23rd year, there will be 33 productions during the month with a focus on Shakespeare’s comedies, including: With Shakespeare in Love–Sonette für the Dark Lady (the “Dark Lady” sonnets sung by lauded Austrian actress Senta Berger), As You Like It (Kote Jarjanishvili State Drama Theatre from Tiflis), Twelfth Night (the Propeller Company), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Bremer Shakespeare Company), King Lear (Globe Theatre on Tour), Der Kaufmann vo Venedig (The Merchant of Venice) (Sad Rheinische Landestheater), As You Like It (bat-Studiotheater der Hoschule für Schauspielkunst Ernst Busch, Berlin), Shakespeare and the Globe (lecture by Patrick Spottiswoode), and Shakespeare and Jazz (sixteen of the sonnets arranged and performed by jazz singer/pianist Caroll Vanwelden).
Bremer Shakespeare Company (Shakespeare in the Park, 14th – 18 August): The Bremer Shakespeare Company, founded in 1983, is a theater that is not independently managed by a director, but by the entire ensemble. While they offer a complete production season, they also offer “Shakespeare in the Park,” an outdoor cultural attraction hosted in the nearby meadow of Mecher Park. This year’s plays are: Richard III, Macbeth, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Pericles, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Shakespeare Company Berlin (12 June- 21 September): The company’s motto is “Shakespeare in Green,” and the productions are held en plein air in the nature park Südgelände. They promise “Theatre under the stars, between tall trees and old industrial monuments accompanied by birdsong, the rustle of leaves and a gentle hum of the insects.” This year’s productions will include: Macbeth, Richard III, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, All’s Well That Ends Well, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, and The Taming of the Shrew.
Shakespeare Festival Gyula (4-15 July): “The Gyula Castle Theatre operates in the court of the only gothic brick fortress that has survived in Central-Europe. Guests are entertained with the best performances of historical dramas, different forms of contemporary prosaic theatre, opera, operetta, ballet, mediaeval courtyard-music, jazz, puppet-show, classic-, folk-music and folk-dance in the summer theatre. Not only the court of the fortress is turned into a theatre, but programmes of great variety are available on the nearby lake-stage and on stages set up at different places in the town.”
Now in its 9th year, this year’s festivities, 4-15 July, include exhibits, films, street performances, and, of course, full scale productions at Gyula Castle. Ticketed Performances include: Shakespeare Sonnets (Ildikó Mándy Company), Hamlet (Joint performance of the Gyula Castle Theatre and the Tamási Áron Theatre of Sfântu Gheorghe, dir. László Bocsárdi), W.S.: Hamlet (Performed by the University Theatre and Film Arts Budapest, dir. Sándor Zsótér), Taming of the Shrew (A performance by The National Theatre Tirgu-Mures Tompa Miklós Company (RO), dir. Sorin Militaru), and the concert Countertenors, or What You Will (love songs inspired by Shakespeare, with works by Purcell, Liszt, Haydn, Schubert, Williams, and Porter; performed by Birta Gábor and Nicholas Clapton (GB)).
The Gdansk Shakespeare Festival (1-6 August): Beginning in 1993, during the millennial celebration of Gdansk, the Gdansk Shakespeare Festival is now a summer ritual, entering its seventeenth year. “One of the guests of this year’s 17th Shakespeare Festival in Gdansk, Wroclaw is Song of the Goat Theatre with performances of “Songs of Lear,” the winner of all the awards at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – including the Fringe First Award winner, known as the Theatre Academy.” The festival also includes a conference.
Festival Shakespeare (6-12 June): “Festival Shakespeare is back! To celebrate the Xth edition, the festival is landing in Barcelona, in the Raval, and arrives with the complicity of La Perla 29 who is joining the project and making the Biblioteca de Catalunya the headquarters of the Festival. Romea Theater, CCCB, the Filmoteca de Catalunya, la Central del Raval library, the Horiginal, the Massana school and other entities of the square are collaborating too with the initiative.” Running 6-12 June, plays include: Julio César (dir. Paco Azorín), Diagnòstic Hamlet (Cia. Pelmànec), Big Will Shakespeare (dir. Quim Lecina), La caiguda de ‘H, La Julieta (dir. Oriol Broggi), Treballs d’Amor perduts (dir. Marilia Samper), as well as poetry: Sonets Encadenats (amb Lluís Soler), dance: [H]Works (dir. Moreno Bernardi), lectures, a conference, and other activities.
This list is by no means exhaustive. If you know of another European summer Shakespeare Festival you would like to see included in this list, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the heading “Global Shakespeare” and I will happily amend.
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