Holland Festival 2015: Inviting a Broader Audience to World Class Art

The Holland Festival closed on Tuesday June 23rd with a free screening of the opera Lulu by Alban Berg performed by the Dutch National Opera in Park Frankendael. In 25 days, the Festival presented 45 productions spread over 100 performances. In contrast to the special edition of 2014, the 2015 Festival was the usual size. It drew 69,000 visitors and venues were approximately 80% full. The big free events, House in Your House, All-Imitate-Act, The Book of Sand and Opera in the Park drew more than 239,000 visitors. The 68th edition was the first to be held under the artistic direction of Ruth Mackenzie.

An innovative programme
Ruth Mackenzie’s first edition followed the customary Holland Festival course: a tradition of innovation, the presentation of a wide variety of world-class productions from every continent and a mixture of new faces and established names. Mackenzie additionally focused on free events in public space and programmes with cheap tickets, with the aim of making art accessible to a new audience. On the Museumplein, the Festival collaborated with the Stedelijk Museum in presenting All-Imitate-Act by Liam Gillick. The public could view and use the installation for the entire 25 days of the Festival. In digital space on the opening night, people could stream House in Your House for free and throw their own party at home. 21,500 people watched the DJ sets, and it was a trending topic on Twitter. The interactive digital song cycle The Book of Sand by Michel van der Aa can be seen for free on the website thebookofsand.net or downloaded as an app. The Book of Sand was watched more than 6500 times during the festival and is available for viewing until 2020 in any case. At six outdoor locations in the centre of Amsterdam, the public could pay €5 for a ten-minute encounter in bed with an actress, who told them a poetic story. The placing of the beds attracted many viewers. During 12 Hour PROM in the Concertgebouw on the closing weekend, the Holland Festival presented four big concerts, for which promenading tickets cost only €10 a concert. The event included performances of Eva-Maria Westbroek with the Amsterdam Sinfonietta and Anna Calvi with the Metropole Orkest. Slagwerk Den Haag played a composition by John Luther Adams, and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra joined forces with the Netherlands Radio Choir to perform compositions by Ravel, Xenakis and Boulez. Multiple Voices took 8 hours to build up a 40 voice performance of Thomas Tallis’ famous motet, free to 12 Hour PROM ticket buyers. The first edition of 12 Hour PROM was a big success and will be continued in the next Festival. In addition, the Holland Festival’s extra programme was considerably larger than previous years with over 60 events, including lectures, debates, workshops, talk shows, films and master classes.

Holland Festival 2015 presented 25 world premieres, including seven short pieces for bassoon that were especially composed for the Save the Bassoon campaign. In the 25-hour-long programme Urbo Kune in the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ, Rozalie Hirs presented her new composition Atlantis ampersand, performed by Klangforum Wien, while writer Arnon Grunberg read a story especially written for the occasion. Het Innerlijke Landschap by Frank Scheffer and Guo Wenjing was also a world premiere. The opera Koeien by Misha Mengelberg, Cherry Duyns and Guus Janssen met with a passionate reception from the audience. The Festival’s dance programme included the world premiere of the anniversary production Extremalism by Emio Greco and Pieter C. Scholten, performed by Ballet National de Marseille and ICKamsterdam. Besides focusing on the by now 90-year-old composer Pierre Boulez, the Festival also highlighted Turkey and the surrounding region, opening with a festive programme of Turkish music in the Royal Theater Carré. The Festival’s theatre programme contained big productions and intimate performances. There were renowned directors in the Stadsschouwburg, including Lev Dodin and his Maly Drama Theatre from St. Petersburg with Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, Ivo van Hove and Toneelgroep Amsterdam with Kings of war, and Robert Wilson directing and acting in Krapp’s Last Tape by Beckett. The intimate performance and film What if they went to Moscow? by Christiane Jatahy was well received in Frascati.

Audience favourite
The audience favourite for 2015 is theatre performance Niet Meer Zonder Jou by Adelheid Roosen and Nazmiye Oral. The performance made a deep impression on its viewers. Other favourites were the concert by mor ve ötesi and Şebnem Ferah in Paradiso, the performance of Répons by Pierre Boulez in the Gashouder, Koeien by Misha Mengelberg, Kings of war by Toneelgroep Amsterdam, A Night Under Eastern Skies by Al-Kindi, Mercan Dede and Niyaz; and What if they went to Moscow? by Christiane Jatahy.

Visitor numbers
The 2015 edition of the Holland Festival attracted over 69,000 visitors. The big free events drew more than 239,000 visitors. These included the free installation All-Imitate-Act by Liam Gillick on the Museumplein with over 210,000 visitors, and The Book of Sand, which so far has been seen over 6500 times. House in Your House was watched more than 21,500 times and Opera in the Park drew roughly 1500 visitors. In comparison to the 2014 edition, the festival was a lot smaller. In 2014, the Festival had 50 productions with 159 performances (including War Horse). In 2015, there were 45 productions with 100 performances. Attendance was good, just like last year, with venues around 80% full.

Subsidies, sponsors, foundations and private donors
The Holland Festival is subsidized by the Ministry of Education, Cultural Affairs and Science and the City of Amsterdam, and was partly made possible with the support of patron FONDS 21 and sponsor Rabobank Amsterdam. In 2015, Stichting Ammodo increased its contribution and the VSB Fund supported the Holland Festival once again. These contributions and those of other corporate sponsors, foundations and many private donors formed a solid financial foundation for the 2015 Festival.

The 69th edition of the Holland Festivalwill take place in June 2016.