MALTA’S RICH HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION MAKE IT A PERFECT CROSSROADS AND A REAL MEETING PLACE FOR ARTISTS. PETER MANNING, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF THE THREE PALACES FESTIVAL EXPLAINS TO ANTONELLA AXISA THAT MALTA HAS JOINED A FAMILY OF FESTIVALS AND IS QUICKLY BECOMING A COMPASS FOR THE ARTS
Between November 3 and 12, under Arts Council Malta’s (ACM) festivals directorate, music from The Three Palaces Festival will flow across the chambers of San Anton Palace in Attard, the Verdala Palace in Buskett and the National Museum of Archeology and the Grandmaster’s Palace in Valletta. “Palaces are the most intimate and beautiful spaces with great acoustics, but they’re also a perfect representation of European enlightenment and the arts have flowed from them for 500 years. There’s a river of creativity flowing from these palaces,” explains artistic director Peter Manning. Live arts need spaces, and these historic palaces provide the kernel for the festival’s activities – they are the ‘acorns of Malta’ in Manning’s words.
The 2016 edition was his first at the helm of the festival, and asked whether he had drawnany conclusions after his first outing, Manning said that it had been an absolute joy to see a new younger generation come to the event in huge numbers, clearly showing that they were partaking in this magic world of opportunity which arts festivals offer. “Arts and arts education allow us to be fuller people, they enrich our lives and prepare us for engagement at an incredibly wide level.” He explained that while the internet has given us the possibility to access anything, we access it alone. So live events haven’t lost their importance, but on the contrary they’re becoming more relevant as they’re fulfilling a need to share live experiences with other human beings.
Manning believes that the role of an artistic director is to find the heartbeat of the public and understand what the people want and what’s influencing them. All of that has to be combined with an overall vision of all the arts in that geographic location. “As artistic director one has to be aware and sensitive to all other artistic offerings and everything else that surrounds the country.” So a vision can’t be shaped in a vacuum and he follows closely what’s happening culturally on our islands. As someone who has travelled and worked in various parts of the world like Texas, Washington, Salzburg and Paris, he understands that the artistic needs of a country change and it’s important to find a balance between providing good progressive arts and and engaging a wider public association.
His programme, under the title The artist as hero, manages to find that balance. Manning describes it as the most exciting he’s ever done, and we’re not surprised. Friday, November 3 the festival will open with a concert at the Museum of Archeology in Valletta by the American pianist Andrew Von Oeyen. The Californian has performed in the best venues all over the world including the Barbican Hall in London, Lincoln Center in New York, Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow and Teatro Olimpico in Rome, and he will undoubtedly enthrall audiences in attendance.
The next day the same venue will host four cellos of the Vienna philharmonic. The Wiener Philharmoniker, most famous for its popular and widely-televised New Year’s Concert. November 5 will see London-based Maltese tenor Nico Darmanin take centre stage and charm listeners with his incredible voice.
Building on his belief that arts education for young people should be an intrinsic part of the festival, the Verdala Palace in Buskett will host three morning concerts for school children by Cretan singer and musician Kalia Lyraki and Scottish pipe player Barnaby Brown, one of the world’s leading experts of pre-historic music.
ARTS AND ARTS EDUCATION ALLOW US TO BE FULLER PEOPLE.
The festival will continue for the public with a mid-week concert on November 8 charting new territory with Sandro Zerafa’s Jazz Band. Audiences will be looking forward to watch jazz in a setting that’s perhaps more usually associated with classical music.
The only concert at the Grandmaster’s Palace will present the talent of the Castallian String Quartet, while November 10 will see traditional baroque and anglican singing by The Blenheim Singers from Oxford. San Anton Palace will host young violin prodigy Ben Baker in concert with a piano on November 11, while the festival will end with the Laefer Saxophone Quartet which includes the gifted Gozitan saxophonist Philip Attard. Manning is excited to be tapping into what he describes as ‘huge Maltese talent’ and to be creating a net of collaborations. He insists cooperation is an absolute necessity in the arts, and in artistically directing a festival in particular. The goodwill to communicate more to audiences is vital and this is what The Three Palaces Festival is aiming to do with this new edition.