ENJOYING THE SHOW: Tallinn Song Festival Grounds are just one of the many venues in Estonia which host events, from rock concerts to song festivals, dance to opera.
TALLINN - The upcoming year promises concerts, festivals and parties taking place in just about any city, town or village of Estonia. Culture lives in spite of the economic up- and downturns. The year 2009 was successful for show business in Estonia. The major and most emotive event was undoubtedly Madonna’s “Sticky and Sweet Tour” concert in Tallinn, on the seaside Song Festival Grounds on Aug. 4. Tallinn is advantageously located in the center of a large potential audience of Helsinki, Riga and St. Petersburg, which favors inviting the world’s biggest stars to this medieval capital.
The Tallinn Song Festival Grounds has hosted a variety of global stars, like Tina Turner, Bryan Adams, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Metallica, Moby, Franz Ferdinand, 50 cent, Snoop Dogg, Eros Ramazzoti and more.
Since its creation, the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds has hosted literally hundreds of thousands of choir singers and is the venue for annual festivals, exhibitions, rallies, races. It is a unique open-air concert place, located on the seashore of Tallinn, with the audience on a hill facing the stage and the sea, and with excellent acoustics. It can host 150,000 – 200,000 spectators at a time. Another popular venue for concerts is Saku Suurhall, as the new year starts with Rammstein performing there on Feb. 24, then Metallica April 18.
A variety of colorful events characterize Estonia every year, such as the Nargen Festival that brings female choirs to the island of Naissaar, close to Tallinn. The Birgitta Festival takes place in the ruins of Pirita Monastery, which is the high spot of Tallinn’s culture summer. The Organ Festival, opera festivals, the Estonian theater festival Draamake, the International Oriental Dance Festival, Johvi Ballet Festival, The First Punk Song Festival, the Chamber Music Festival, all crown past years.
The most outstanding international event of 2010 will be “The 23rd European Film Awards,” on Dec. 4, in the newly opened Nokia Concert Hall (in Solaris center). The red carpet and European stars symbolically give an opening hit to Tallinn 2011, the city’s year as the European Culture Capital, twinning with the city of Turku in Finland.
The jazz lover’s year culminates with Jazzkaar. It is the main and a rather large festival of 40 or more concerts, run under the iron will of Anne Erm. The name of this festival is said to recall the Estonian folk party jaskar. Jazzkaar Festival pays homage to this music genre with the most prominent names of today’s jazz, both from Estonia and the wider world – from avant-garde to mainstream jazz. The “Talvejazz” (Winter Jazz) festival will last from Feb. 11 to March 21. The main events take place in late autumn.
Leigo Jarvemuusika Festival (Leigo Lake Music Festival) is a romantic, beautiful and powerful 2-3 day music event that takes place in Estonia’s most magical locations, among primal forests. It is difficult to explain what this festival is like; there is simply nothing close to the power of Leigo. The orchestra and performers – international and local – are brought to an island in the middle of the primal lake of Leigo, while the shores are for the spectators, and water brings out the light show in the first dark summer nights of August. Each concert is like a performance or film, in which the world of image and sound melts into an audiovisual whole. Leigo unites the musical and landscape adventure, showing the harmony of fire, water, and sounds.
“Dance Breaks out from Within!” is the theme of the beloved Viljandi Folk - XVIII Folk Music Festival, held in Castle Hills and the center of Viljandi from July 22-25. It brings together hundreds of performers, and usually offers more than one hundred concerts in the city of Viljandi and the countyside. It is difficult to describe this event with words, it goes beyond music, culture and spirituality. Its focus lies with European folk music. The small and beautiful city of Viljandi gets flooded with spectators from different countries, reaching 26,000 in 2006, and makes even the otherwise peaceable Estonians rock. This is considered one of the most important annual events in its field in Europe.
The White Lady Festival in the town of Haapsalu in the beginning of August brings together music, theater and fairs. Haapsalu castle has been home to the ghost of the White Lady for 600 years, a symbol of this beautiful seaside resort. Stories about the moon and the window frame out of which she should appear are all creative fiction. Likewise, she is not a shadow of the window created in the full moonlight, but she is ‘The White Lady.’
POFF - Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival is a unique event taking place in Tallinn’s cinemas in late autumn. Undoubtedly one of the most unique and noteworthy cultural events happening in Estonia. It consists of sub-festivals of animated films, student films and children’s and youth films, with an emphasis on European films. The festival also ‘tours’ other major Estonian cities, tempting those for a cinema visit at night.
The Golden Mask festival started in 2005 and celebrated its fifth anniversary last year. Festival Golden Mask is one of the most important theatrical events of the year, interest in which unites the Russian and Estonian public. The festival shows the best Russian performances of last season, which have become the nominees and winners of the Russian Festival Golden Mask. Festival Golden Mask in Estonia represents the Estonian theaters in Moscow. The Golden Mask is a National Theater Award which was founded in 1994 by the Theater Union of Russia and is given to productions in all genres of theater art: drama, opera, ballet, operetta and musical, and puppet theater.
Saaremaa Opera Festival brings together opera stars from the Baltic Sea region countries to the castle of the city of Kuressaare. The patrons include Arnold Ruutel, Estonia’s former president. Opera festivals also take place in Parnu, Tartu and other cities of Estonia. La Traviata, Madame Butterfly or performances by Estonia’s own star in Vienna, Annely Peebo are enough of an introduction to give an overview of this event.
A handful of people have made a significant share of Estonian (and of the Baltic) entertainment possible. Brothers Peeter and Priit Rebane are the key figures behind BDG (Baltic Development group), owned and run by the two. BDG is the leading entertainment company in the Baltic States. Priit takes care of clubs, bars and restaurants – among others, the ‘fox’ brothers (Rebane means fox in Estonian) have given life to Club Hollywood, Lounge 8 and Club Angel in Tallinn’s Old Town. Peeter is, on the other hand, in charge of organizing cinemas and concerts – he is behind the opening of Solaris Shopping center in Tallinn, where the Nokia Concert Hall is located, and runs Artis, Cinamon and Soprus cinemas, among others.
Some people are born for big things. This would include Juri Makarov, a musician, a visionary and a businessman, reportedly the best concert organizer in the world according to International Live Music Conference. One can call him the grand old man of concert organization in Estonia. He was one of the first who had the courage and will to import western stars to Moscow, and Tallinn. He contributed to building a bridge between the east and the west. He was also behind the legendary Rock Summer festival.
Arvo Part, Neeme Jarvi, Eri Klas, Annely Peebo, Tonu Kaljuste and Veljo Tormis are maybe the most famous and respected names tiny Estonia has contributed to the world’s cultural arena. Once in Estonia, it is a must to get to listen to their creations. On the world show business stage, Mena Suvari, Ornella Muti, Hannah and Kerli (a rising Hollywood star), are of Estonian origin.