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Opening party Holland Festival drowns in Westergasfabriek

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It was busy at Amsterdam's Westergas area, this Thursday, 6 June. Fantastic, of course, that not only do you have a couple of excellent running restaurants and clubs there, and the evening four-day march passes by while there is a big salsa party in the club near the world-famous Gashouder, but then it still feels a bit weird that the royal opening of the Holland Festival has to squeeze itself in between. Princess Beatrix's human wardrobes and automobile carriages with AA number plates were mostly a bit in the way of Summer Breeze visitors. 

Outside, Amsterdam was buzzing, inside the Gashouder, the Holland Festival was simmering. Perhaps my expectations were too high: the gigantic space and the huge orchestra ready for a performance of the Sacre du Printemps, you can imagine all kinds of things. But so it was a bit disappointing. 

Rape images

The programme opened with very sweet orchestral music and a ditto film full of playing children. A deeper layer, something of the doom or doom you secretly expect in real art, I could only imagine with great difficulty. That layer could be in the film after, which would give Brazilian images to Stravinsky's Sacre. That film did indeed offer plenty of doom and gloom, with crackjunks and rape images, but the two parts of the programme did not marry. Now, the festival reports, something appears to have gone wrong with the live editing of that film, so I won't be too harsh. 

The big problem was just not the editing. In that huge space, everything else in particular fell a bit short. The screen was big, but the Gashouder turned out to be bigger, and so was the enormous orchestra plus choir. It all felt small, and that did bother a bit. 

Would this have been done better at another venue in Amsterdam? That is difficult, as the Concertgebouw does not offer the right sightlines and the Rabozaal on Leidseplein does not have the acoustics for such a large orchestra combined with so many guests. Funny, that our cultural capital lacks spaces for this kind of spectacle. 

Domestic noise

The opening reception afterwards, for which there was extra time thanks to the short programme, offered an interesting clash of cultures. The wine was excellent, the vegetable snacks successful. A Brazilian band had also been arranged, sitting homely around a table. That should make it an intimate affair, but someone had decided that their music needed to be amplified. In the transformer house's pipe loft, this mostly produced a tremendous bucket of noise. Talking became an interesting challenge. Beatrix could not be tempted to do a dance and was gone pretty quickly. 

Those who wanted to go outside to listen to each other in peace though, were kindly asked by a cordon of security guards to leave the refreshments inside. Then that salsa party next door suddenly seemed a lot more fun. 

The Holland Festival continues until 29 June.

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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