The Ljubljana Festival is a renowned and highly ambitious international festival which offers a variety of music, theatre and dance performances by leading international as well as domestic artists. Between 70 and 80 events range from concerts of classical, ethno, rock and jazz music, to performances of opera, theatre and ballet. It enriches the capital city with concerts of star soloists, acclaimed ensembles, chamber and philharmonic orchestras and performances by prima ballerinas, opera divas, and seasoned thespians.
Taking place from the end of June to the end of September, it is the main summer festival in Ljubljana and certainly amongst the bigger ones in the wider region. As of recent years, the festival also has a small ‘winter edition’ in February.
Of the most famous artists who have appeared on the stage of the Ljubljana Festival one can name Gilberto Gil, Ennio Morricone, Tan Dun, Ricardo Mutti, Jose Carreras, Katia Ricciarelli, Grace Bumbry, Yehudi Menuhin, Mstislav Rostropovich, José Carreras, Yuri Bashmet, Misha Maisky, Shlomo Mintz, Krzysztof Penderecki, Gidon Kremer, Valery Gergiev, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Julian Rachlin, Angela Gheorghiu, Maceo Parker, Wynton Marsalis, Marcelo Alvarez, Bernarda Fink, Marjana Lipovšek, Vadim Repin, Zubin Mehta, Sir Andrew Davis, Midori, Tomaž Pandur, Elina Garanča and Maris Jansons,
Some of the best symphonic orchestras and ballet companies in the world were also hosted – the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Mariinsky Theatre of St Petersburg, the New York Philharmonic, the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre of Russia, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from London, Béjart Ballet Lausanne, the St Petersburg Boris Eifman State Ballet, the Teatro alla Scala Ballet Company, etc.
The Ljubljana Festival has also established itself as an important producer of opera performances. Productions from both Slovene opera institutions (the Slovene National Theatre Maribor and the Slovene National Theatre Drama Ljubljana) as well as international productions of the Lithuanian National Opera, the Mariinsky Theatre, and the Croatian National Theatre have been incorporated into its diverse programme.
Although the Ljubljana Festival is most active during the summer months, other important aspects of its programming include the spring Slovene Music Days, featuring concerts of works by Slovene composers and a symposium attended by musicologists from around the world, and the Križanke International Art Colony, which gathers visual artists in the inspiring environment of the Križanke venue.
Ljubljana Festival’s events take place at several locations in Ljubljana but most are held within Plečnik’s open-air complex at Križanke which was created within the abandoned former monastery especially for the festival. Major events are held on the Open-air Stage, while other venues include the Baroque-style Križanke Church, the Knight’s Hall and the ‘Courtyard of Hell’. Some of the events are also realised in the Kongresni trg square, the Cankarjev dom Culture and Congress Centre, the Slovene Philharmonic or in the Grand Union Hall of the Grand Hotel Union.
One of the oldest festivals in Ljubljana, the Ljubljana Festival has its roots in the first Tourist Week, organised by the Ljubljana Tourist Society in 1952.
The festival has since than by far outgrown the character of a local tourist event with folklore, sport and economic activities, thus nowadays attracting a total audience of nearly 60,000 spectators from Slovenia as well as abroad. It was awarded the Golden Honorary Medal of Freedom – the highest award of the President of the Republic of Slovenia – for its valuable contribution in organising and presenting domestic and international artistic endeavour and events.