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Connoisseurs of classical music in Latvia are spoiled every year with outstanding cultural events: every summer two large opera festivals take place in Latvia. They bring to the stage soloists from the Latvian National Opera as well as musicians who now represent world-famous opera houses, but began their careers in Riga, and notable guest artists.
Since 1998, the Riga Opera Festival in mid-June marks the closing of the season of the Latvian National Opera. By presenting the essence of operatic highlights from the preceding season, performers thank their listeners for their faithfulness and bring joy to those new listeners who have only discovered the Latvian National Opera during their summer vacation. The festival, held in the beautiful Opera House, offers the new productions from the past season, large-scale instrumental works and performances by beloved local and surprising guest soloists, moving and thrilling at the same time.
The next Riga Opera Festival will take place between June 8 and 19, 2011, and besides the golden classics of the Latvian National Opera – Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, Puccini’s Turandot and Madame Butterfly and Verdi’s Aida – the programme will also feature new stagings of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, as well as a concert performance of Verdi’s Requiem.
The other major summer event – the 18th Sigulda Opera Fest – has brought to the outdoor stage of the Sigulda castle ruins such artists as Kristīne Opolais (who began her splendid career at the Latvian National Opera) and Philippe Do, soloists with Milan’s La Scalatheatre; Zhanna Afanasieva and Sergei Kalinov, soloists with the St. Petersburg Opera; Dainius Stumbras, a soloist with the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, as well as the best performers of the Latvian National Opera: Krišjānis Norvelis, Inga Šļubovska and the legendary conductor Aleksandrs Viļumanis. On the evening of August 8, 2010, a production of Giacomo Puccini’s three-act opera Cio Cio San (Madame Butterfly) will be staged, which is an international collaboration between the Mariinsky Theatre, the St. Petersburg Opera and the Latvian National Opera.
The idea of an opera festival that takes place on an outdoor stage and where the audience sits on blankets in an improvised amphitheatre was the brainchild of opera lover and doctor Dainis Kalns, who at the time was a surgeon at the Sigulda hospital. His enthusiasm and audacity to contact world opera stars in person has ensured that the Sigulda Opera Fest has not only been etched into the hearts of Latvian audiences, but also on the European cultural map.