Temporada Alta Theatre Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary

Temporada Alta, the renowned performing arts festival that takes place in Girona, reached this year its 25th birthday. After a quarter of century, the director of the event, Salvador Sunyer, took stock of its history in an interview with the CNA. Girona’s festival is noted for acting as the gateway to Spain, and often to Europe, for many international productions. Polish theatre director Krystian Lupa and British director Peter Brook were some of the big international names that could be seen at the festival this time out. In this vein, Sunyer stated thatencouraging work between companies and directors from Catalonia and international teams is one of the festival’s aims and long-term ambitions. A clear example of this wish is ‘Davant la Jubilació’ (‘Eve of Retirement’), in which Polish theatre director Lupa directs Catalan actors. This spectacle, and ten more, will tour internationally and 2016 is, indeed, the year in which many shows are having a longer trajectory after being released at the event.

The director of the festival Temporada Alta, Salvador Sunyer, during an interview with the CNA (by ACN)
The director of the festival Temporada Alta, Salvador Sunyer, during an interview with the CNA (by ACN) / ACN


December 15, 2016 12:36 AM

Barcelona (CNA).- The renowned performing arts festival Temporada Alta, taking place in Girona every year, has put an end to its 25th edition. On the 30th of September, the event raised the curtain of one of its most ambitious editions: 100 spectacles, with 33 premieres, and a strong international programme that combined consolidated directors with new names. According to the director of the festival, Salvador Sunyer, encouraging work between companies and directors from Catalonia and international teams is one of the festival’s aims. A clear example is ‘Davant la Jubilació’ (‘Eve of Retirement’), in which the Polish theatre director Krystian Lupa directs Catalan actors. The festival had a part to play in the release of this work and in more than 19 shows from powerful names in the theatre scene like Àlex Rigola, Lluís Pasqual, Oriol Broggi, Josep Maria Miró and Guy Cassiers. All these performances that saw light during the festival have confirmed other functions and in eleven cases will go on an international tour.

This is the case, amongst others, for Krystian Lupa’s piece, which will tour internationally in 2018, the inaugural show 'In Memoriam', which will be performed in Madrid and is scheduled to tour around the country, and ‘De Welwillenden’ (‘The Kindly Ones’), which is part of ‘The Littell Project’, a co-production of the Festival. In this regard, Sunyer noted in an interview with the CNA that 2016 is the year in which many shows produced and co-produced by Temporada Alta are having a longer trajectory after being released at the event.

Seeking European funding

Along these lines and trying to achieve funding to produce more spectacles, Bitò Productions – the company behind the festival - has worked on a project that will be presented this week to the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The company worked on it alongside the Archipel Theatre of Perpignan. Sunyer highlighted that the goal of the initiative is to obtain more backing to carry out projects with other European theatres and to have more scope for action, since the European grant would be for three years (2017-2019).

In this vein, Sunyer stated that if they are granted the money, the company will be able to increase by between 15% and 18% the budget for their own productions. The festival already benefited from a similar programme a few years ago when it obtained European funding for a project called ‘Catalan scene cross-border’. Then, the project was led by the City Councils of Perpignan and Salt, where Bitó Productions is based, and part of the funds were devoted to equipping the theatre of Perpignan and the Performing Arts Centre ‘El Canal de Salt’. In total, the EU contributed €8.2 million and the Catalan Government another €4 million. The shows co-produced under this umbrella had more than 600,000 viewers across Europe.

Record attendance

In its 25th editionedition, the festival beat its attendance record, with a 96.31% occupancy rate. Indeed, the organisers were forced to programme 31 additional showings of 18 productions, the largest increase in number of performances in the history of Temporada Alta. All 18 saw a full house.

These figures concern Sunyer who considers such a high level of attendance one of the “main problems” to solve. On the one hand, because there are people that, despite additional performances, cannot gain entry, and on the other because the event balances the budget thanks to the sale of tickets and so it depends on it. In this vein, Sunyer questioned what will happen if someday the public reaction is not that enthusiastic. “If one year we go down to 70% it will be a disaster, we need to review the economic criteria to stabilise the festival at around 85% attendance and make it viable”, he remarked.

In total, the number of viewers was lower than last year when the festival opened with 'The ceremony of fire', a street show that attracted thousands of people. In this edition, the total number of spectators was 47,728. However, Sunyer stressed that the festival managed to reach more people and new audiences. This is proved by the fact that 5,395 visitors bought a ticket for the first time.

The power of international programming

Tickets to international shows sold quicker, Sunyer said. This means that the commitment of the festival to big European name productions was well received by the public. Polish theatre director Krystian Lupa, British director Peter Brook, and the Belgian-born choreographer Alain Platel were some of the international professionals that could be seen at Temporada Alta this autumn. According to Sunyer there were up to a hundred international theatrical programmers, among whom some came from major festivals such as the one in Avignon.  

Temporada Alta celebrated its 25th edition with 26 international shows, from 17 different countries, and with two major theatrical areas of focus: the Latin American Connection series, established four years ago, which concentrated on productions from across the Atlantic, and the Flanders Connection series, which this year celebrated its second edition and brought the Flemish theatrical scene to the audience. 

Beyond the internationalisation of the festival, extending the presence of the festival in Girona and putting down roots in the city is also one of the festival’s “obsessions”, Sunyer said. To do so, Temporada Alta scheduled activities and shows in 14 “unconventional” venues in the city. In addition, it maintained relations with other municipalities and towns in Girona Province, which also hosted shows.

According to Sunyer, one challenge for the future is to reach audiences at risk of social exclusion and bring the theatre and the performing arts to different levels of education through projects in schools, high schools and universities.