The Top 10 Summer Festivals

Spiritual music in the mountains, avant-garde art in the street...Adrian Mourby rounds up the highlights of the cultural calendar

Sunday 20 May 2007 00:00

1. Sacred Music Festival, Fes

Morocco, 2-10 June

Running alongside Fes's own festival in the city, the Sacred Music Festival claims a new world is upon us, one which asserts individualism over culture and belief. The organisers seek to redress that balance in a series of concerts that reassert the spiritual dimension. Highlights include Barbara Hendricks singing works by Pergolese with the Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble, an evening of Gregorian chant, Arab-Andalus songs of the Maghreb, and a workshop on calls of the muezzin. Every night at 11pm ritual music will be performed by various Sufi brotherhoods.

Also see: Foundouk el-Nejjarine, an eighth-century caravansarai, is a Unesco-protected site. Look out also for the medersas (schools) of El-Attarine and Bou Inania.

The package: Simpson Travel (0845 811 6500; offers three-night packages at the Dar al Andalous from £550 per person, with one dinner. Tickets for performances will be booked locally.

Further information:

2. Festival des Jardins, Cap Roig

Spain, 13 July-18 August

A stunning setting on the Mediterranean coast plays host annually to an eclectic mix of music - this year Joan Baez, José Carreras, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and Liza Minnelli feature. Highlights include two nights of a truly Spanish production of Carmen with Nancy Herrera in the title role. The multi-talented Bobby McFerrin appears with the Ferenc Snetberger Trio and Elvis Costello with The Allen Toussaint Band & Horns.

Also see: Cap Roig is very close to the 13th-century Aragonese port of Palamos, now a Costa Brava tourist resort, but one that has retained its historic centre. Walk over the Cap Roig headland to Castell beach and the remains of a pre-Roman Iberian settlement. Enjoy a visit to the 15th-century hermitage and lighthouse of Sant Sebastia. Inland at Palafrugell the national dance, the sardana is danced in the Placa Nova.

The package: Vintage Travel (0845 344 0460; offers self-catering in Mar Bona, a house sleeping up to six, from £530 per person for one week, including car hire and tickets to three shows.

Further information:

3. Festival of Arts, Montreal

Canada, 28 June-1 July

Four days of celebrating the work of painters, sculptors and photographers takes over the whole of Sainte Catherine Street. Highlights include three streets full of galleries and a jazzfest featuring Bob Dylan, Keith Jarrett, Wynton Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr.

Also see: MAC (Musée d'Art Contemporain) is the only institute in Canada dedicated only to modern art. Ile de Notre Dame - an artificial island built in the St Lawrence Seaway - houses both the province's casino and the remains of Expo 67.

The package: British Airways Holidays (0870 243 3406; offers five nights, room-only from £771 per person.

Further information:

4. Aix-en-Provence Arts Festival

France, 12-17 July

Some say this is the best music and arts festival in Europe. The festival marks the opening of the new Grand Théâtre de Provence and the start of a three-year residency by the Berlin Philharmonic. Highlights include Simon Rattle conducting The Valkyrie; Pierre Boulez, Janacek's From the House of the Dead; René Jacobs, Monteverdi's L'Orfeo; Marc Minkowski, Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio; and Daniel Harding, Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro.

Also see: The Cathedral of St Sauveur with its fifth-century baptistry and Froment's 15th-century triptych, The Burning Bush, which includes a portrait of Good King Rene of Aix. Walk Cours Mirabeau with its fountains and shady cafés. Saint Rémy was the birthplace of Nostradamus and was home to Vincent van Gogh, who convalesced and painted here at the monastery of St Paul de Mausole. The excavations at Glanum show evidence of Greek, Gaulish and Roman occupation.

The package: Travel For The Arts (020-8799 8350; offers five-night deals from £1,500 per person, including one ticket.

Further information:

5. 22nd Paxos Music Festival

Greece, 28 August-6 Sept

In a delightful setting on this tiny Greek island the annual Paxos festival is dedicated to young musicians, many of whom have recently won international prizes. Highlights of the programme include Schubert's Trout Quintet, Beethoven's Septet, Debussy's Cello Sonata, Brahms's Horn Trio and Tchaikovsky's Souvenirs de Florence. All of the performances take place in the old schoolhouse in Loggos.

Also see: Take a boat out of the harbour at Gaios to visit the famous "blue caves" and in Loggos itself look out for actress Susannah York, who has a holiday home on the island. Antipaxos, the smaller neighbouring island is famous for its wine, which is almost impossible to purchase in shops. Drink it down in a taverna or on a farm. Afterwards, visit two of the finest sandy beaches in the Ionian Sea.

The Package: Travel à la Carte (01635 33800; arranges self-catering packages to properties on the island within walking distance of the festival, from £689 per person. Tickets can be purchased on arrival at €15 (£10) per person.

Further information:

6. 62nd Bregenz Music Festival

Austria, 18 July-19 August

The Bregenz Festival takes place on an open-air stage built out over Lake Constance. Highlights will include Tosca on the Floating Stage and Britten's Death in Venice in the new Festival House.

Also see: Walk up to the fortified upper town through the Martin Tower; the chapel frescoes date back to the 14th century. The baroque Seekapelle (Lake Chapel) originally stood on the shore of the lake, which was pushed back so a railway and promenade could be built. Schloss Landeck at the eastern end of the Arlberg Pass guards what was the one route between Bregenz and the rest of Austria until the Arlberg Tunnel was built.

The Package: JMB Travel (01905 422282; offers three-night packages to the Bregenz Festival from £695 per person.

Further information:

7. Savolinna and Kuhmo Festivals

Finland, 15-28 July

A double bill of chamber music festival in the Finnish woods, combined with an international opera festival in Savonlinna's stunning medieval castle. Kuhmo is for serious chamber music fans, with a huge range of concerts grouped in whimsical titles like "Vienna Before the Sunset", "Journey to Eszterháza"and "From the Composer's Secret Garden". Meanwhile at Savonlinna this year Christine Makris will be reprising her role as the world's scariest Lady Macbeth.

Also see: Visit the island castle of Ovanlinna. Take a boat to the Retretti Arts Centre or a bus to Villa Rauhalinna, 16km north of Savonlinna, which was built by a Russian officer and serves a good lunch.

The Package: Kudu Travel (01722 716167; offers all-inclusive seven-night packages to both events starting at £1,850 per person, excluding flights.

Further information:;

8. Aspendos Ballet & Opera Festival

Turkey, 7 June-16 July

Aspendos is a showcase for Turkey's ballet and opera companies. Room is usually made for a visiting east European company. Along with traditional fare such as Nabucco, Swan Lake and La Traviata, look for the State Opera of Tatarstan performing its Carmen.

Also see: Antalya has Hellenic city walls with a Roman gateway to honour Emperor Hadrian's visit AD130. En route to Aspendos, take in Perge, which was abandoned in the seventh century.

The package: Savile Tours (020-7923 3230; offers six-night packages from £520 per person.

Further information: email:

All packages are based on two sharing, including return flights or Eurostar fares and b&b, unless otherwise stated, and are subject to availability

9. The best for literature: Hemingway's haunts

Florida's Key West commemorates, on 17-22 July, the work and he-man lifestyle of its most famous author with a short-story competition, judged by Lorain Hemingway, the writer's granddaughter, plus literary readings, a fishing tournament for marlin and the running of the bulls(a light-hearted tribute, using artificial bulls, to Pamplona's famed sporting event). Actor Brian Gordon Sinclair will perform the fourth instalment of his Hemingway one-man show. Don't forget to visit Sloppy Joe's where the novelist used to drink (a lot). Virgin Holidays (0871 222 0305; virginholidays. offers seven-night deals from £916 room only, including car hire. Most of the festival events are free.

The best for opera: At home with Puccini

A gloriously shambolic al fresco festival in Torre del Lago, from 20 July to 17 August, in which Puccini's music is played against a backdrop of stunning scenery. Highlights include Tosca, La Rondine, La Bohème and Madam Butterfly. Visit Casa Puccini, which shows that Puccini composed in the centre of the household with his family all around him. Travel For The Arts (020-8799 8350; can organise four-day packages from £1,100 per person.

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