Dylan Jones: 'An evening at the Peralada Festival is one of the most magical experiences you can have in Spain in the summer'

Talk of the Town
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The Independent Online

To the Spanish/French border, just north of Barcelona, for the 23rd Festival Castell de Peralada. A little warm tapas, a little iced sherry and a little pop ballet in the grounds of a floodlit castle. Since 1987 the festival has showcased recitals by famous singers, symphony-choir concerts, operas, musical theatre, dance, jazz, pop, chamber music and ballet – in a town that for the rest of the year feels as though it was rejected by Sergio Leone for being too quiet. It is organised, managed and financed privately by the not-for-profit Castell de Peralada Cultural Association, led by Ms. Carmen Mateu de Suqué ... and it is one of the most magical evenings you can have in this part of Spain in summer.

Even though there is a casino on the grounds, the festival feels a little like a more sexy, more sophisticated version of Glyndebourne, a place where rich cocktail Catalonians come for some light orchestral relief dressed in their linen, satin and tat.

This year you could have seen John Malkovich, Katie Melua or Ainhoa Arteta, but we saw the Corella Ballet perform three pieces, one of which, Fancy Free, was the inspiration for the classic Hollywood musical On The Town, which famously concerns the romantic adventures of three sailors on leave for 24 hours in an electrified New York City. It's sometimes assumed that the ballet followed the movie, but Fancy Free actually came first, in 1944, composed by Leonard Bernstein and choreographed by the brilliant Jerome Robbins. Six months later Bernstein turned it into a Broadway musical, and working with lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green, came up with On the Town. Five years later it was finally made into the film that still enthralls and enchants, despite being six decades old.

And while we weren't exactly on shore leave, we certainly felt as though we were in some sort of fantasy twilight world. Watching a 60-year-old musical in the Spanish August heat, surrounded by a remarkable and fairly comprehensive selection of heaving bosoms and matelot tops, we almost felt as though we were performing ourselves. Peralada, Peralada, a visitor's place, Where no one lives on account of the pace!

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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