Jurmala's beloved concert hall wakes up for the summer

  • 2005-05-11
  • By TBT staff
JURMALA - If the walls of Dzintari Hall could talk, they'd be bragging and gloating so fast that we'd wish they couldn't. The outdoor Jurmala concert venue, established in 1891, has seen more than 100 years of theater, concerts and fame. And this summer, one more chapter will be added to the Dzintari legacy.

The concert hall's original stage was built in Edinburgh in honor of the wedding of Alexander the II's daughter and the Duke of Edinburgh 's not bad for your neighborhood joint. In the early 20th century, the concert hall saw performances by the St. Petersburg Maria's Theater, Warsaw's Philharmonic Orchestra, and Edinburgh's symphony orchestra, among other world-renowned names.

After considerable financial losses in 1935, conductor Arvids Parups urged the city of Jurmala to build a new hall on the premises in order to continue concerts. The necessary finances were found and a new stage in Dzintari was opened on June 27, 1936. Nearly one month later, an enclosed concert hall, designed by architect Viktor Mellenberg to accommodate 690 people, was finished. The grand opening concert would go down in Dzintari history: Together with the radiophone symphony orchestra, Leonid Vigner made his debut, performing "Minuet in a classical style" for the first time.

It wasn't until after World War II that Dzintari began its reputation for hosting popular Russian musicians. With the hall's post-war revival, famous Moscow and St. Petersburg artists performed at the venue more and more often. By 1962, Dzintari had become the most modern and respectable resort concert hall in the Soviet Union. While American girls were going nuts over the Beatles in Carnegie Hall, Russian-speaking teenagers swarmed Dzintari Hall with just as much mania.

Once a mecca for Russian vacationers, Jurmala's cultural life declined rapidly in the early 1990's when the country regained its independence. Gradually, Russian and foreign guest artists reappeared in Dzintari, and Jurmala's woods again echoed with music. The Jurmala self-government took over management of the concert hall in 1999. By this time, the stage was once again the backdrop to a teenager's dream summer weekend.

Today, after being fully renovated in March 2004, Dzintari has once again become the envy of many a Latvian concert hall. Every summer the hall hosts performances by the biggest Russian stars, including Alla Pugacheva, Philip Kirkorov, Valery Leontiev and many more. But Russia's not the only country to share its brightest stars; the hall has seen world-famous musicians such as Patricia Kaas, Sarah Conor, Ingrid and the band Modern Talking.

Yet, hands-down, the most looked-forward to and prestigious Dzintari event is the "New Wave" music festival. The international competition for up-and-coming music stars draws thousands, while millions enjoy the festival on TV. Last year Latvia's a cappella maestros, Cosmos, won the event, launching the former choirboys into European fame.

In fact, the event has drawn so much attention to Dzintari over the years that on May 21, in celebration of its seasonal opening, Dzintari Hall will be awarded the European Union of Arts' Gustav Mahler prize for excellence. The honor is well-known in Europe, with Steven Spielberg, Miloss Formans, and Mstislavs Rostropovics having received it in the past.

After the awards ceremony, jazz musicien Oleg Lundstrem will set the tone for this summer's concert line-up, which will include performances by Jury Antonov, Mashina Vremeni, Raimonds Pauls and Nikolay Baskov, as well as the International humor festival "Jurmala 's 2005," the Opera festival "Bel Canto Jurmala," and the infamous "New Wave."