The Donostia-San Sebastián Musical Fortnight is the longest standing classical music festival in Spain and one of the most time-honoured in Europe
It began in 1939 as fruits of the entrepreneurship and zest of the city innkeepers and merchants —in the same way that the International Film Festival was to be launched some years later— willing to enrich the tourism offer over the summer season. To this end they took the baton of the ancient musical tradition already existing in the city from the end of the 19th century and early in the 20th: the foundation of the Orfeón Donostiarra, the Grand Casino orchestras, the great European artists who sought refuge against the Second World War in the Victoria Eugenia Theatre…
Since its inception, Musical Fortnight has enjoyed great prestige both for the quality of its programs and for the renown of their performers. Among them symphonic orchestras such as those from Berlin, London, Cleveland, Scala Milan, St. Petersburg, Bavarian Radio, Czech Philharmonic, National of France, National of Spain or the Basque National Orchestra; conductors such as Argenta, Sir Colin Davis, Münch, Neumann, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Muti, Mehta or Maazel; Ballet companies such as the New York City Ballet, the Tokyo Ballet, the London Festival Ballet, the Béjart Ballet of Lausanne, the Scala of Milan or the Marques de Cuevas; Vocal soloists such as Plácido Domingo, Alfredo Kraus, Luciano Pavarotti, Beniamino Gigli, Jessye Norman, Montserrat Caballé, Teresa Berganza or Mirella Freni; Instrumental soloists such as Nicanor Zabaleta, Arthur Rubinstein, Henryk Szeryng, Alicia de Larrocha, Maria Joào Pires, Mstislav Rostropovich or Christian Zacharias; and stage directors such as Pier Luigi Pizzi, Giancarlo de Monaco, Emilio Sagi, Nicolas Joel, Lindsay Kemp and David Ritch. The presence of these great names is complemented by the desire to promote young interpreters and new talents.
The first edition of the Musical Fortnight took place in the now-defunct Gran Kursaal Theatre, but in 1940 it was already held at the Victoria Eugenia Theatre which would be its official venue until 1999, when the Festival returned to the re-inaugurated Kursaal Auditorium. Since the 2007 edition, when the restoration works of the Victoria Eugenia Theatre were completed, both have become the official venues of the Musical Fortnight.
That first magnificent stage lasted up to the end of the `60s, when political upheavals and new tourism customs gave rise to difficult times for the Musical Fortnight. In 1979 the City Council took the reins of the Festival and began its recuperation that was definitely consolidated with the incorporation, in 1991, of the Managing Society shared by Donostia-San Sebastián City Council, the Provincial Council and the Basque Government. Nowadays the Festival counts on the support of wholehearted audiences that pack its halls. To that effect some 2,000 Friends of the Fortnight are undoubtedly one of the mainstays of this initiative.
The Musical Fortnight has been extending its duration over time and for some years it covers the whole of August.
In 1979 the City Council took the reins of the Festival and began its recuperation that was definitely consolidated with the incorporation, in 1991, of the Managing Society shared by Donostia-San Sebastián City Council, the Provincial Council and the Basque Government. Nowadays the Festival counts on the support of wholehearted audiences that pack its halls. To that effect some 2,000 Friends of the Fortnight are undoubtedly one of the mainstays of this initiative.
Although during its first years of life it lasted only two weeks, the Festival has been consolidating over time and thanks to the support of the public the Musical Fortnight progressively extended its duration that from a few years hitherto covers the whole of August.
Opera, ballet, the great symphonic orchestras, the small chamber groups, the romantic organ, the choral groups, contemporary composers, local promises, the great names of the international scene, the shows for children… all of them have a place in this Festival that beyond its main headquarters at the Kursaal Palace and the Victoria Eugenia Theatre resounds in many and singular spaces, not only in Donostia but also in Gipuzkoan territory.
The Musical Fortnight has reached a maturity stage that allows it to look forward to an even brighter future with excitement, ambition and firmness. So, the Festival embarks to the conquest of new audiences, a challenge it shares with the whole of classic music festivals. It wants to consolidate the support to musical creation and education, in close coordination with Musikene, the Basque Country Higher Music Centre, and the Summer Courses at the University of the Basque Country. It aspires to integrate in its performances schedule the new music spaces being planned in the city, such as the new homes of the Orfeón Donostiarra and Musikene. Furthermore, it is willing to strengthen its cross-border relations, especially with Toulouse and Bordeaux, among other challenges and projects.
Member of Festclásica.