Ensuring continuity, striving for the new | Toni Attard

As the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts announced this year’s edition of the Malta Arts Festival, speaks to theatre director and actor Toni Attard, part of the festival’s artistic committee, about what audiences can expect this time around.

Toni Attard
Toni Attard

Given that a new board is heading the Malta Arts Festival, it’s perhaps a given that the programme will have a different flavour to past editions. What are some of the most significant changes in direction this time around?

The artistic team of the 2014 Malta Arts Festival brought together distinctive expertise and access to international artistic networks which facilitated further the programming of this year’s edition. We worked collectively on a programme that builds on previous editions but also one which highlights accessible and diverse artistic expressions within unique locations around Valletta. We deliberately chose to assume a transitional role in order to give the necessary space for the new artistic director to shape a new vision for the festival.

Could you give us some highlights of the new Festival’s programme?

In terms of locations, the festival will be making use of St Elmo as one of its venues. This beautifully restored fortification offers a unique open space for performances. The festival this year introduces a stronger visual art component with an open air film programme curated by Rebecca Cremona and collaboration with the first edition of Valletta International Visual Arts Festival.

The festival also features an eclectic mix of musical genres, ranging from the sensational Croatian duo 2Cellos with their AC/DC, Bach and Vivaldi combination to the video opera of Michel van der Aa’s cello concerto. Family programming has also been introduced in the Malta Arts Festival with Teatru Anon’s Ir-Ritorn at the Maritime Museum. Contemporary circus company Organización Efímera from Spain will present Fecha de Caducidad in Pjazza Teatru Rjal. In Hide and Seek, Spanish choreographer Iván Pérez in co-production with Nederlands Dance Theater will draw the audience in a poetic game that not everyone will wish to play.

Collaboration with Maltese artists was also given priority with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra featuring work by Karl Fiorni, the Dutch Ensemble Windstreken collaborating with Ruben Zahra on a unique folk-fusion programme.

In ‘triple bill’ Mavin Khoo brings together an eclectic programme featuring Brenda Lee Grech, currently working with Scottish Ballet, Maria Cassar, Valentina Azzopardi, Dorian Mallia and performed by other international dancers. Other two interesting collaborations feature the Facebook project Kelma Kelma with Big Band Brothers and the epic performance of Il-Kappillan ta’ Malta directed by Mario Philip Azzopardi and scripted by Immanuel Mifsud.

A strong workshop programme has also been developed for practitioners and students. 

That said, are you still striving to ensure some sense of continuity with previous editions of the festival?

Yes. Projects commissioned or programmed by the previous director, such as Il-Kappillan ta’ Malta and Globe Theatre were retained.

How is the festival benefitting from having a committee made up of various artists and cultural practitioners?

With such varied artistic experiences, international networks and creative ideas we were not short of programming potential. We worked hard in a very short span of time and we maximised our own resources to create another memorable festival for our audiences and artistes. 

For more information and a full programme of events, log on to the Malta Arts Festival website.

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