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With a cohesive team, you win the World Cup. How the Holland Festival gagged all the cynics this year.

The 2019 Holland Festival was the best in decades. At least in the 25 years I have consciously witnessed it, I cannot recall a national festival that coupled so much impact with so much prestige. Whether visitor targets were met or not will be of no concern to me in this regard. It is, as Volkskrant colleague Hein Janssen once remarked,... 

Colin Benders plays Concertgebouw flat on closing night of memorable Holland Festival 2019

Stereo is primitive. Cinema operators have known that for a while, and so has anyone with a 7:1 set to go with their TV. Two speakers, no matter how good and big or small, remain two speakers. Now, of course, we also only have two ears, but they can place 360-degree sound thanks to some clever ribbing and our own smart brains. So sound should be... 

Pity the Poles! Intense suicidal sadness in stage adaptation of Kafka's 'Trial'.

You must be a Pole. That, as the Dutch premiere of 'Process' at the Holland Festival showed, is no laughing matter. This performance, an adaptation of Franz Kafka's famous novel of the same name, conveys that feeling very poignantly. Five hours long, interrupted only by two half-hour intermissions, during which a mackerel sandwich can be eaten. Or a bowl of mixed nuts. Observant... 

Homage to Robert Mapplethorpe: slideshow with moderate music #HF19

A black man sits on the edge of the stage of Amsterdam's Stadsschouwburg, pardon ITA. He observes us with intense gaze as we walk into the auditorium. - As the incarnate subtitle of the performance Triptych (Eyes of One on Another) dedicated to Robert Mapplethorpe. Behind a gauze screen are the instruments of Asko|Schönberg, which, together with Roomful of Teeth, signs for... 

Tryptich by Bryce Dessner is just a little too perfect to really hit home

The Americans have a word for it: production value. By this you can indicate that a performance is technically perfect. The sound is right, the stage setting is excellent, the costumes are all right, the lighting brilliant and the actors, singers and musicians: top notch. Even the extras are at their best. So a show with high production value can rely on little... 

Phenomenal ballet needs no message for Holland Festival 2019

Phenomenal ballet needs no message for Holland Festival 2019

With all the socially critical, exotic and personal life art at the Holland Festival, Van Manen, Forsythe, Arqués is actually an outlier, a statement without a message. Dance has enough on its own, expresses itself full-length. And how. Work of overwhelming quality. How much better can it get? At most by giving it a message anyway. There is room there. The rest is complete.... 

'Congo' is another highlight of one of the most meaningful Holland Festivals in years.

'I think they understood.' Faustin Linyekula says it, very quietly, a little apologetically almost, to his fellow actor at the end of the performance Congo. A slightly relieved laugh can be heard in the main auditorium of Frascati, where Princess Beatrix is also seated. Shortly before, Daddy Moanda Kamono had erupted in an increasingly desperate tirade against our shared past.... 

From now on, mandatory for every theatre talk: a blank sheet of paper.

If a Nobel Prize for brilliant innovative festival ideas is established, the first may be awarded to whoever came up with the solution to 'the festival conversation' yesterday. You know, that ever-necessary conversation with the important guest or guests. At a table. On chairs. On television, such a setting is already problematic, live in a theatre usually lethal. A currently anonymous... 

Four reasons to go to Pelléas et Mélisande #HF19

The Holland Festival, with its ample offerings, is sometimes its own competitor. For instance, I missed Turan Dokht and the premiere of Pelléas et Mélisande because I was at aus LICHT. To attend a performance of Debussy's only opera, I had to pass up Abd Al Malik's concert. - Cultural choice stress, frustrating on the one hand but a blessing on the other. Was it... 

More French-language rap please.

French is made for rap. Forget all that American-English mincing, listen to the rhythmic drone that good French-language rap offers. One of the possible benefits of a self-absorbed US and a post-Brexit Europe is that we might start hearing that beautiful language of our southern southern neighbours a bit more often. 'Speak French to me, darling!' Macron will be delighted. Wednesday... 

Does blood have to flow then? (How much art you can make about art not hurting)

Why do we actually want to see blood so much? That's what I wondered during the performance Roughhouse. This American-German piece is showing in the Holland Festival (Wednesday 12 June still) and in it there is no blood. That's also what it's about. That blood no longer flows anywhere, in the media, in art. That everyone always gets up again, that... 

Why, as a total layman, I did three days AUS LIGHT. And came out as a different person.

Music critics were unabatedly enthusiastic. And even opera lovers came, saw and were pleased. Of course, there was the chorus of monuments, led by a Flemish antiquity, who liked Maria Calllas better seventy years ago, but its members are only the necessary minority needed for something as unprecedented as AUS LICHT, the Magnum opus of the 72nd Holland Festival. Beforehand, it seemed... 

Crash Park, la vie d'une île - Philippe Quesne. Photo: Martin Argyroglo.

Until the laughter dies down. Crashpark stages the downfall of the world as a beautiful landscape full of partygoers

Crash Park - La vie d'une île (2018) by French director Philippe Quesne performs 19th-century values in their 21st-century elaboration. The elitist explorer has become a modal tourist, moving in well-organised groups to every corner of the world in search of ultimate experiences, provided they don't get in the way of a return ticket western... 

Angélica Liddell's screams are particularly interesting in The Scarlet Letter

The much nudity and sex in Angelica Liddel's adaptation of Hawthorne's famous novel are a bit old-fashioned. The Spanish language is the real attraction. In his review of Angélica Liddell's play 'The Scarlet Letter' on this website, Wijbrand Schaap calls the scene with a naked black man "a painful low point". According to Schaap, the man is treated by Lidell as... 

And Stockhausen saw that it was good - aus LICHT in Holland Festival #HF19

'Then he could split into three and was a singer, dancer and trumpet player,' says a girl on the screen prior to Michael's Jugend. She is one of the little children who tell at the beginning of each day what aus LICHT is about. A good find by Pierre Audi and his artistic team, because the universe that Karlheinz Stockhausen gives us... 

Jimi Hendrix and Hlengiwe Lushaba: heavenly union in a requiem for Congo's freedom

Hlengiwe Lushaba, remember that name. This South African singer sings the paving stones out of the street during Sur lessons traces the Dinozord. She does so with a voice that goes from gritty falsetto to full Wagner soprano, though that term will again be resented by classical sharpshooters. But what would it be? Hlengiwe Lushaba will care little, because... 

Black, French, or African: The Welcome Table holds discussion on 'négritude' well away from Holland Festival

The ground beneath your feet is sacred. It is, in these times of left-wing identity politics and emerging right-wing blut und boden thinking, quite a risky remark, but Faustin Linyekula used it anyway, in an answer to a question from the audience. That question was about the need, to defend your own place in an increasingly globalised world. Because. 

Parliament Debout: round of Bijlmer mostly results in discomfort for Holland Festival audience.

The Bijlmermeerpolder is still known as a district where you don't go unless something or someone forces you to. A stigma the apartment neighbourhood acquired in the 1980s when it served as a drain on society. And still its reputation is bad. A single incident of violence repeatedly damages the entire district, though that is... 

Antony and Cleopatra, Tiago Rodrigues. Photo: Magda Bizarro.

'I have no problem at all if spectators want to see Anthony and Cleopatra. But for me, it's about something else.' Tiago Rodrigues writes theatre for dancers.

Anthony and Cleopatra is exactly the kind of repertory piece that people look forward to during the Holland Festival, or any other prestigious stage. Director and writer Tiago Rodrigues manages not so much to deflate that grandiose expectation as to reduce it to the intimacy of a duet and a play with extremely basic theatrical gestures. His two actors are dancers, an experienced choreographer duo 

Los Incontados: a bizarre terrarium of small-human suffering in a cloud of cocaine and confetti.

Colombia's biggest export not only allows Urk fishermen to work long hours, or Amsterdam Zuidas lawyers to keep up with the global 24-hour economy. The white gold also dissolves the nasal septum of the cream of world culture, and costs thousands of lives in the country itself. That had to lead to a theatrical performance, and it did 

In the greatest spectacle, ultimately the smallest detail touches your heart (which is why The Head and The Load had to be the royal opening of the Holland Festival).

Some stories are too big to tell. Too big, but no less important or true for that. Like the story of the millions of Africans who died in World War I in the service of the warring factions there: Britain, France, Italy and Germany. No one knew that last story. At least, nobody I knew knew about it, and neither did I myself. It... 

Naked men and black bronzing under philosophical veneer. Is Angelica Liddell overshooting the mark with The Scarlet Letter? (Why the Holland Festival can expect a riot)

That you cannot shamelessly treat a black man as a rutting primal beast and a faceless object for your unlimited lust fantasy as a white woman? Seems logical to me, but for Angélica Liddell, world-renowned performance artist, it is typical of the new puritanism that threatens free art. She now brings The Scarlet Letter to the Netherlands, a theatrical performance that is rather... 

*With sound!* Why the Holland Festival show doesn't have to stop for now

'Please stop the show!", shouted an 83-year-old former reviewer from the back row. Theatre Frascati fell silent for a moment. There had never really been such an interruption at the Holland Festival's traditionally festive press conference. And that while Faustin Linyekula had just got into his stride, telling about the projects he is carrying out with his Studio Kanako in Kisangani. They provided... 

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