In a nutshell, just over 53,000 visitors attended 390 culture and art programmes as part of Rijeka’s Summer in the Capital. These were joint cultural events and highlights of the summer of 2020, a year in which Rijeka proudly received the title of European Capital of Culture in February, only to face the so-called “new abnormal” – the global COVID-19 pandemic just a month and a half after the opening ceremony of ECoC.
Following the all-pervasive lockdown this spring, cultural institutions in Rijeka began holding online programmes and open-air pop-up performances in some of the city’s neighbourhoods as early as May. At the same time, the financial crisis brought about by the pandemic led to the culture and art programme of the European Capital of Culture project in Rijeka being revamped, with certain events that were integral to the project commencing in June.
An eventful cultural summer in 2020, in changed organisational circumstances and in compliance with COVID-19 safety precautions, was made available courtesy of cultural institutions (the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc, Art-kino, the Croatian House of Culture in Sušak, the Rijeka Puppet Theatre, the Rijeka City Library, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art), the Rijeka 2020 company, Delta Lab, the Other Sea (Drugo more) association, and numerous art organisations and individuals who organised and implemented the culture and art programme.
Around 300 programmes were organised under the auspices of five city cultural institutions, including a large portion organised as part of the ECoC programme. The Rijeka 2020 company, Delta Lab and Drugo more organised 74, six and nine cultural programmes, respectively.
Large-scale exhibitions at Export – a new cultural venue in Rijeka
It should be noted that many activities took place outside and inside the Export building, a refurbished 5,400 m2 property which had been granted to the City of Rijeka by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure under a five-year concession agreement in late May.
Export hosted two of the most important showpiece ECoC exhibitions, both of which were world-class: Fiume Fantastic: City Phenomena and the international exhibition The Sea Is Glowing, as well as a host of accompanying exhibitions, such as Terra Effluviens, Oblomo to the People, Hysterical Machines and more.
A slew of cultural and entertainment programmes and festivals, ranging from the two-day RiRock Festival Sound Across Water to evening-long concerts, such as Back to the Future – From a Classical to a Modern Jazz Adventure or the new European Jazz Days festival, which fused with Jazz Time Rijeka (an international jazz festival in Rijeka), were held outside the Export building, on an open-air stage that had been set up there in June and was only recently disassembled. The area outside Export also hosted the Swamp Up Rijeka programme, which was jointly organised by the Zagreb Cultural Development Association (URK)/club Močvara and Distune Promotion from Rijeka. The Musical Migrations concert performance by the multi-instrumentalist Zoran Majstorović and the Jazz Istra Orchestra was held in front of Export in September.
Export also hosted a number of literary events as part of the Festival of the European Short Story, the Hay Festival and Vrisak (Scream).
Four Lungomare programmes
Lovranska Draga, Brseč, the Rijeka Fish Market and Grčevo Beach are four sites at which permanent sculptures were installed and unveiled as part of the Lungomare Art flagship. The unveilings of these sculptures were attended by between 80 and 200 visitors, depending on the site, and they will remain a permanent cultural sight on Kvarners’ cultural and tourist route, allowing a much greater number of visitors to see them in the future.
Other Lungomare flagship programmes were diligently carried out, with some of the permanent sculptures being scheduled for installation by the end of 2020 and the rest in 2021.
The Neighbourhood Festivals livened up Gorski Kotar and the islands
Four online programmes and 21 events were held during the summer in the 27 Neighbourhoods, as part of the eponymous flagship. Of those events, 11 were Neighbourhood Festivals, programmes that had intended to welcome local and other Croatian artists, as well as European partners from abroad. However, due to the restrictions on travelling and the implementation of special COVID-19 safety precautions, the European partners presented their work online, via video calls or recordings. The Neighbourhood Festivals were held in Unije, Delnice, Kuti, Fužine, Novi Vinodolski, Gomirje, Kostrena, Praputnjak, Jelenje, Crikvenica and on Cres. A number of other festivals will take place in the remaining neighbourhoods in the upcoming months.
Eighty standalone events at this year’s Tobogan
Although it counts as a single programme, it should be said that this year’s Tobogan (Slide) Children’s Festival comprised as many as 80 standalone events, ranging from creative workshops, walks, and storytelling to performance programmes: plays, films etc. Over 4,000 visitors attended these events. In addition to Tobogan, the Children’s House flagship also renovated the children’s playground next to the Uragan ship, and the Balthazar Town Beach opened in Grčevo in cooperation with the Lungomare Art flagship.
The opening of a grand-scale exhibition as part of this flagship is planned for late October, when Rijeka 2020 and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art will jointly produce a real live Balthazar Town with a postcode of 51000 at MMCA.
Dopolavoro, Sweet & Salt, Kitchen of Diversity
Apart from the aforementioned programmes, exhibitions and literary events, which attracted an enviable number of visitors to Export, a series of smaller, yet equally important programmes, were held as part of the Dopolavoro, Sweet & Salt and the Kitchen of Diversity flagships.
Besides the Fiume Fantastic exhibition, Sweet & Salt offered as many as 15 standalone events as part of the Školjić 2.0 programme, the Ebriphon art installation at Molo Longo, the City in the Clouds programme, which facilitates green renovations of skyscraper rooftops in Kozala, and some of Delta Lab’s small-scale programmes.
In addition to the exhibitions at Export, the Dopolavoro flagship organised Igor Eškinja’s Do Plants Dream of Tomorrow exhibition and Jennifer Lyn Morone’s exhibition The Scheme of Things at Filodrammatica. Around 10,000 visitors came to see all the exhibitions.
Apart from literary festivals, the Kitchen of Diversity also worked on the Diversity Mixer during the summer, which is an EU project that will be successfully completed in the next few days.
Urban capped off the summer events outside Export with a major concert performance that drew a crowd of approximately 700 people and was co-organised by Rijeka 2020 and the City of Rijeka.
City cultural institutions – July at Riječka Rezolucija Square
Some of the city’s cultural institutions – the Croatian House of Culture in Sušak, the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc and the Rijeka City Puppet Theatre – provided a plethora of performances, ranging from theatrical and children’s plays to classical music concerts and the Festival of Inclusive Scenes, at the Riječka Rezolucija Square in July.
Of all the Croatian House of Culture’s summer programmes, Aleks Curać Šarić’s stand-up show Let’s Be Real was best received by the audience. Other standout performances as part of the Port of Dance Festival of Contemporary Dance, organised by the Croatian House of Culture, included: Mechanics of Distance (Máté Mészáros), BEAT “I just wish to feel you” (Collective Dope – Jenna Jalonen), Babae (Joy Alpuerto Ritter) and PLI (Viktor Černický).
Rijeka’s puppeteers reaped a tonne of awards over the summer
During the summer of the ECOC year, the Rijeka City Puppet Theatre performed a total of 77 productions to an audience of around 4,200 spectators, big and small.
Two ECoC premieres were held in June: Happy House and the Slovene premiere of the play The Emperor’s New Clothes, which the Maribor Puppet Theatre staged together with the Rijeka City Puppet Theatre. The play premiered at the Maribor Puppet Theatre on 26 June, while the Rijeka premiere is scheduled for October.
Following a period of in-house premieres and repeat performances, the puppeteers enriched the Summer in the Capital with Puppetry Evergreens at the Riječka Rezolucija Square, the play Oedipus Rex at Export and by participating in the Tobogan children’s festival. The puppeteers performed three of their “evergreens” at Riječka Rezolucija Square –The Lost Story: Hansel and Gretel, Koka Koken and the Three Little Pigs. Ten plays were performed to a crowd of approximately 1,070 people. In early July, the puppeteers premiered Oedipus Rex, which was co-produced by the Rijeka City Puppet Theatre and the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc, at Export. Just over 200 spectators saw the premieres and the repeat performances. The Rijeka City Puppet Theatre contributed to the Tobogan children’s festival with productions of Theatre Mania and The Little Mermaid and hosted visiting performances of There Was Once a Sun by the Puna Kuća Theatre from Zagreb and the workshop Aliens by the Oz Theatre from Brseč. A total of 140 spectators saw the productions and the plays.
The play Happy House also toured the following festivals – the Šibenik International Children’s Festival, the Split Summer Theatre for All Ages and the Osijek Summer of Culture. In late August, the same play was performed at the 31st Summer Puppet Pier in Maribor, where it won the festival’s only award, the Golden Giraffe, which was awarded by a children’s jury.
The puppeteers from Rijeka also participated at the 53rd PIF – International Puppet Theatre Festival with Flekavac, for which they won five awards: best script, direction, puppet and stage design, music and the children’s jury award for best play.
In addition to repeat and visiting performances, the New Adventures of Wanda LaVanda, which delighted the audience, also premiered at the Rijeka City Puppet Theatre and was included in the repertoire until the end of September.
Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc – seven premieres out of 49 summer programmes
During the summer season in June, July and September, the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc staged 49 different programmes, seven of which were premieres.
The ballet ensemble premiered two productions in early June, the ballet Lace, choreographed by Maša Kolar, who was inspired by national historical tradition and folklore, and the ballet dance performance of Burning Water by the renowned Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis in July.
The Opera’s summer programme highlights included the premiere of the updated version of the Baroque opera extravaganza Giulio Cesare – Revisited by G. F. Handel and directed by Marin Blažević, while the concert programme boasted the concert performance by the Rijeka Opera Choir and other choirs in celebration of the 140th birth anniversary and the 60th death anniversary of Ivan Matetić Ronjgov in June, the gala concert performance of Nessun dorma performed by Rijeka’s opera soloists and conducted by the young Maestra Beatrice Venezi, who has been touted as the best virtuoso conductor in Italy, and the From the New World concerts performed by the Rijeka Symphony Orchestra and conducted by the young Maestro Valentin Egel in July, all of which were held at Riječka Rezolucija Square, and the concert performance by the world famous Finnish opera star Karita Mattila in September, which marked the end of the summer concert season.
The Croatian Drama Ensemble in collaboration with the Italian Drama company and with guest roles by the legendary Croatian thespians Neva Rošić and Mira Furlan premiered the long-awaited play Exercise Life – Second Time / Esercitazione alla vita – seconda volta, with Marin Blažević as the director and dramaturge. The audience were given the chance to see the rereading of Nedjeljko Fabrio’s novel and the hit play from the 90s Practicing Life. They could voice their opinions of the play at the Critics’ Salon, another in an array of discussions on theatre between critics and the audience, which was held in July. The Croatian Drama also showcased at Export the dramatic puppet play for young people and adults Oedipus Rex, which was directed by Luciano Delprato and co-produced with the Rijeka City Puppet Theatre, as well as the cult play The Cabinet Minister’s Wife by the Serbian comedian Branislav Nušić, which was directed by Tatjana Mandić Rigonat and which stars the national drama laureate Olivera Baljak, who celebrated 40 years on the stage with this piece.
During the summer season, the Rijeka Theatre adhered to the instructions given by the Civil Protection Headquarters of the Republic of Croatia by adapting the auditorium in accordance with the required physical distance between spectators. Consequently, all programmes of the summer theatre season were attended by an audience of 9,000 people. In normal circumstances before the pandemic, the same programmes would have had a much larger audience. The theatre made the most of the summer by preparing productions for autumn, sprucing up the interior of the building and working on a new and one-of-a-kind project in Croatia, the theatre museum.
Film summer in the European Capital of Culture
Over the summer, Art-kino had 154 screenings, with just over 4,600 spectators attending the programmes.
In the broader context of Art-kino’s summer programme, it is interesting to note that the period of warm weather in Rijeka began and ended with two European Capital of Culture programmes – the Drive-In at Beretich, which took place in May as one of the first post-lockdown events in Croatia, much to the widespread delight of participating citizens, and the ongoing anti-war Drive-In at the University Campus, a joint project by Art-Kino, the University of Rijeka and Filmaktiv, which will continue as long as weather permits.
As far as the summer programme is concerned, Art-kino continuously operated in the courtyard of the Capuchin Monastery from early June to early September and opened with the promotion of the book It Is Important Not to Fear the Evening Train by Velid Đekić, a non-fiction writer from Rijeka, which was published as part of the European Capital of Culture programme.
In addition to the regular evening programme, we should also highlight the Wednesdays with Fellini in celebration of the 100th birth anniversary of this Italian cinema great, the visiting Motovun Film Festival and the Split Mediterranean Film Festival, as well as the Tuesdays with Morricone in August, an homage to the legendary film composer, who passed away this year. Art-kino also participated in the Days of St Vitus celebrations with two screenings of feature films about the popular Professor Balthazar at Čajni Square, to the delight of the many little boys and girls from Rijeka. Unlike recent years, the Summer Art-kino was also open during September and will continue to remain so as long as the weather permits, since spending time outdoors actually benefits the audience given the current circumstances.
Art-kino also contributed to the programme of the 4th Tobogan Festival. Two optical toy-making workshops, treasure hunts at the cinema and two film quizzes for children and young people were held at Čajni Square as part of this year’s festival edition. Altogether, 42 attendees/participants took part in these activities. A total of ten films included in the film programme were screened, some of them in cooperation with Animafest Zagreb, such as the short animated films from the Family Programme 4+ And 7+, the animated film The Prince’s Voyage by the famous French director Jean-François Laguionie and the Italian-French adaptation of the well-known children’s novel The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily by Dino Buzzati. Also shown was a selection of short animated films from the award-winning Animanimals series by the German animator Julia Ocker and the German short film Rocca Changes the World.
With regard to the programme of the Children’s House flagship, it should also be mentioned that three films that were made at the Nikola Tesla, Kozala and Srdoči primary schools as part of the Travelling Film Workshops project have been entered into the official competition of the 58th Croatian Children’s Film Showcase, which is organised by the Croatian Film Association. The showcase will take place online in early October.
The first Rijeka Film Forum – RIFF, organised by Art-kino, was held from 28 August to 2 September on the premises of Art-kino under the Rijeka 2020 – European Capital of Culture flagship programme Times of Power.
The rich six-day film programme of the Rijeka Film Forum opened with the regional premiere of the award-winning documentary For Sama by the Syrian activist and journalist Waad Al-Kateab and the British director Edward Watts. In addition to the documentary film of the year For Sama, the Rijeka Film Forum programme offers twelve more feature and documentary films from all over the world, most of which will have their Croatian premiere at Art-kino.
Focusing on the current theme of Cinema in Emergency Situations, the new edition of the Film Fair, an event that brings together members of Croatian Independent Cinemas in order to enhance independent Croatian cinemas through a series of discussions, workshops, meetings and screenings, was held from 16 to 18 September. This was the third edition of the Fair to take place at Art-kino.
As part of the extensive discussion and workshop programme for cinemas, a special screening of the new award-winning Croatian film Mother was held for the general public, with the film’s director Jure Pavlović and Croatian acting luminary Neva Rošić in attendance.
And finally, the Creative Europe Desk – MEDIA Office Croatia and Art-Kino, in cooperation with the Kids Regio initiative and with support from a total of 25 CED – MEDIA Offices, organised a two-day video conference on the theme of Children and Youth – The Importance of Dedicated Space on 17 and 18 September 2020 via Zoom, with the participants appearing on the big screen of Art-kino during the Film Fair.
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is about to open the Balthazar Town exhibition
Although most of the MMCA areas have been effectively closed during the past two weeks in order to set up the new large-scale exhibition Balthazar Town, the museum was brimming with activities and events over the summer.
Thirteen programmes were held at the MMCA this summer, not taking into account its participation in the Tobogan children’s festival. Three programmes took place in June: the exhibitions From the MMCA Holdings: Who Summoned Silence
and Bodies on Stage, curated by Andrea Contin, and the MM Sculptures guerrilla exhibition by female students of the Academy of Applied Arts in Rijeka.
In July, the MMCA offered seven workshops as part of the Tobogan Festival: MMCA Memory, Print a Greeting from Benčić, Hartera Press Expedition, Street Art Walk, Benilogy, Sound Factory and MMCA Lab.
A workshop was held as part of the exhibition Art / War / Transition, which opened to the public in July.
During August and a part of September, the focus was on discussion programmes: Presentation and discussion Expanded Cinema: Umwertung aller Werte, Marijan Vejvoda and guests and Visit to the Museum and Exhibition and Discussion with the Architect Dinko Perčić on the Architectural Concept of the Museum via Zoom, as part of the European Diploma in Cultural Project Management programme, which is organised by the Kultura Nova foundation in cooperation with the Belgian Marcel Hicter Association.
Other events held in September included the creative children’s workshop, the opening of the modified exhibition Art / War / Transition, a solo exhibition by Matej Knežević: Case Report with Review and the opening of a photo exhibition by Filip Koludrović
In addition to some other smaller-scale programmes, the SprachenWeb2030 ~ Language Network 2030 – Art intervention and a presentation by Tatjana Christelbauer for secondary school pupils in Rijeka were also held in September at the MMCA.
During the summer, 90 event announcements and media invitations for the events, 89 media releases from the events that had been held and seven press releases were sent from the Rijeka 2020 press e-mail alone and 24 press conferences were held that announced the various standalone events of the Summer in the Capital.
To this must be added the calls and notifications to the media about specific programmes that cultural institutions organised during the summer.
In addition to the special COVID-19 safety precautions, all the programmes were held and organised in a manner that ensured that visitors’ health was protected.
The members of the media also played a vital role by relaying the organisers’ appeals to visitors and performers to behave responsibly, and also by readily adapting to the new ways of reporting about specific programmes – with accreditations and by filling out the sign-up forms at the entrances to the events.
Such organisation and responsible behaviour from everyone involved contributed to the fact that none of the 390 events that took place as part of the Summer in the Capital were a source of infection.
A big thank you to the volunteers
A large number of volunteers were pivotal in ensuring all the programmes could take place. They took visitors’ temperatures at the entrances to the events and were in charge of the sign-up forms and lists, organised the handing out of face masks to those entering enclosed spaces, wore T-shirts that reminded people to behave responsibly, and more. This was all diligently and very enthusiastically done by the hard-working European Capital of Culture volunteers.
They also deserve to be given special praise in this summer overview.
Over the summer, the ECoC volunteers did 1615 hours of voluntary work, while a total of 363 volunteers participated in the summer cultural programmes.
Autumn offers new events that will adhere to all safety measures that the National Civil Protection Headquarters may implement
Late September and the upcoming months provide a plethora of programmes, with the largest one being the exhibition 51000 Balthazar Town, which is a joint collaboration by Rijeka 2020 and the MMCA and which will open to the public on 24 October at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.
Also, final works on the infrastructure and refurbishment of the cultural buildings at the Benčić Sugar Refinery Palace and the Children’s House are in full swing, with the first facilities expected to open in November, depending on the COVID-19 safety precautions.
Members of the media (and by extension the general public) will be informed about all upcoming programmes and the measures to be implemented during the autumn and winter periods the same way as before – via announcements, calls and releases from the events taking place.
390 programmes under the Summer in the Capital 2020
53,920 total visitors at the summer programme events
25 programmes under the 27 Neighbourhoods flagship with a total of 4,300 visitors
4 permanent sculptures under the Lungomare Art flagship with a total of 510 visitors at the unveilings of permanent sculptures
3 programmes under the Children’s House flagship and the Tobogan festival with 80 standalone events attended by 4,400 visitors
6 programmes under the Kitchen of Diversity flagship with a total of 2,530 visitors
9 programmes under the Dopolavoro flagship with over 10,300 visitors
6 programmes under the Sweet & Salt flagship, including the large-scale exhibition Fiume Fantastic with 4,600 visitors
37 other programmes organised in response to a public call for participation in the ECoC project and civil initiative programmes etc. with over 7,700 visitors
10 programmes organised by the Croatian House of Culture and Kortil with over 870 visitors
77 programmes organised by the Rijeka City Puppet Theatre with 4,200 visitors
49 programmes organised by the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc with a total of 9,000 visitors
154 screenings at Art-kino with a total of 4,600 spectators
13 MMCA programmes with 910 visitors