Holland Festival 2019 concludes a legendary edition

The Holland Festival drew to a close last weekend with the Polish director Krystian Lupa's performance The Trial, Gregory Maqoma's Cion; Requiem of Ravel's Bolero and Colin Benders's Electro Symphonic Orchestra. The festival’s 72nd edition was its first working with associate artists – this year, William Kentridge and Faustin Linyekula. The spectacular world premiere of aus LICHT was the largest production ever taken on by the Dutch National Opera, Holland Festival, Royal Conservatory The Hague and the Stockhausen-Stiftung für Musik. 

A total of 119 performances were staged in 26 days. The festival had more than 76.000 visitors and a seat occupancy of 84%. There were various free events, including Parlement debout in Amsterdam-Zuidoost, The Invisible Exhibition and Vehicle in Frascati theatre and Opera at the Park: Pelléas et Mélisande was screened live at Park Frankendael. And the programme included an extensive context programme, with discussions, debates, films and an exhibition. 

Associate artists

The festival collaborated with two associate artists from Sub-Saharan Africa: William Kentridge (South Africa) and Faustin Linyekula (Democratic Republic of Congo). The festival coproduced new work by both artists, in addition to staging existing work and, in consultation with the associates, invited artists associated with them. The opening performance was Kentridge’s impressive music theatre production The Head & The Load, about the hundreds of thousands of Africans who were used as bearers in the First World War. His 'ciné-concert' Paper Music was staged, as well as his interpretation of Kurt Schwitters's Ursonate. The Eye Filmmuseum opened Kentridge’s exhibition William Kentridge - 10 Drawings for Projection. We staged Linyekula's Not Another Diva ..., a theatrical concert with three strong female performers. His multidisciplinary classic Sur les traces de Dinozord and his new work Congo were also staged. In Amsterdam-Zuidoost, Linyekula staged the theatrical procession Parliament debout with local staff. 

The context programme included films, debates and discussions which contextualised the associate artists’ work and thinking. The subjects corresponded to the current discussion in the Netherlands about (neo)colonialism, oppression and history writing. In addition, Frascati theatre was Kentridge and Linyekula's 'home’ for two weeks, staging work by them and talented, often young artists from either Kentridge's Centre for the Less Good Idea in Johannesburg or Linyekula's Studios Kabako in Kisangani. 

The programme also included work by artists connected to the associate artists. Antony and Cleopatra, for example, by Portuguese director Tiago Rodrigues, who, as artistic director of Teatro Nacional D. Maria II, made Linyekula city artist in Lisbon in 2016. The Colombian Mapa Teatro, led by Kentridge's former fellow students, presented Los Incontados: un tríptico. The South African choreographer Gregory Maqoma has worked with both Linyekula and Kentridge. Maqoma’s choreography Cion and his solo Beautiful Me, which included choreographic material by Linyekula, could be seen. Maqoma was also a dancer in his own choreography of The Head & The Load


This year's most eye-catching world premiere was aus LICHT. 9.226 people visited the Gashouder for three performances of the three-day marathon performance. It featured many highlights from Karlheinz Stockhausen's LICHT opera cycle, more than fifteen hours of live music. Over six hundred people worked on stage and behind the scenes for four years on this once-in-a-lifetime event, co-produced by the Dutch National Opera, the Royal Conservatoire The Hague and the Stockhausen-Stiftung für Musik. aus LICHT was received with great enthusiasm. The New Yorker called it ‘one of the great theatre events of this century.’ 

Striking work

Other work that stood out this year was the Belgian Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, the Rosas dancers and the B'Rock Orchestra's rendition of The Six Brandenburg Concerts - Bach as it has never been seen and heard before. The Polish director Krystian Lupa was at the Holland Festival for the first time with his Kafka adaptation The Trial. The theatre maker Philippe Quesne made his debut at the festival with his expressive and absurdist Crash Park, la vie d'une île. The controversial Spanish theatre maker Angélica Liddell returned with The Scarlet Letter. The composer Bryce Dessner also returned with the new music theatre performance Triptych about the American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Following this performance, Melkweg Expo and Holland Festival organised the powerful exhibition Eyes on Robert, which can be seen until 31 July. 

Mitra was oppressive music theatre about an Iranian psychoanalyst's tragic fate. The Iranian composer Aftab Darvishi and the Dutch director Miranda Lakerveld’s Turan Dokht was an 'intercultural rewriting' of the classical opera Turandot. The French writer and rapper Abd Al Malik was at the Muziekgebouw with his 'rhythmic rebellion' Le Jeune Noir à l'épée, in which he recounted his childhood and escape from the French banlieues, using texts by Charles Baudelaire and Édouard Glissant. 

Digital art

The Dutch composer Michel van der Aa's virtual reality experience Eight was so popular that the festival doubled the number of time slots to satisfy the overwhelming demand. Eight is one of the ten films shortlisted for the Dutch Film Festival's Golden Calf award in the Best Interactive film 2019 category. 

VPRO Audience Favourites

The audience was able to assess performances or concerts using a voting card and the Holland Festival app. The audience favourites were: 1. aus LICHT together with Cion; Requiem of Ravel’s Bolero, 2. The Head & The Load, 3. The six Brandenburg Concertos together with Le Jeune Noir à l'épée


Bill T. Jones (United States, 1952) will be the associate artist for the Holland Festival 2020. The festival's artistic team is going to work with him to compile part of the new festival programme. At this edition the festival bids farewell to general director Annet Lekkerkerker. She will be succeeded by Emily Ansenk on 1 September.