WEEKEND: TRAVEL: Seduced by the sound of Seville; MUSIC FESTIVAL PLANNED WITH OPERA AT ITS HEART.Byline: Patsy Fuller
CASTLES and palaces, tapas bars and treasures, plazas and streets lined with orange trees and sunshine to boot - could any city ask for more?
Well believe it or not, yes.
The atmospheric Spanish city of Seville has dreamed up yet another attraction to lure the tourists: a music festival with opera at its heart.
And just to make the festival super special, the opera will be staged in the open air, against some of the city's stunning backdrops.
There could be only one choice to kick off Seville's first international music festival: Carmen - Bizet's tragic tale of a soldier and a girl from the Seville tobacco factory.
As the producers, designers and directors involved with the ambitious project outlined their vision when I visited the city, it was hard not to share their sense of excitement.
We were in the expansive Plaza de Espana - and invited to imagine a balmy evening in September - when the festival will be held - with the sun going down, and the first act of Carmen about to unfold.
The plaza will be transformed to create the tobacco factory scene for the first act and a tavern setting for act two, and then the audience will move 50 metres, to face the opposite direction towards the leafy Parque de Maria Luisa, a huge garden in the heart of the city, which will transformed by a "light architect" into a mountainous forest region for act three.
So far so good.
And here comes the exciting part (although the logistics are fairly mind- boggling): the audience, some 8,000 of them, will take a two-hour break during which they will stroll 850 metres to the city's famous bull-fighting arena, the Plaza de Toros de Maestranza, for Act Four.
And not just any 850 metres, but along an illuminated, picturesque route by the Guadalquivir River Guadalquivir River
Arabic Wadi al-Kabir ancient Baetis
River, southern Spain. Rising in the mountains of Jaén province, it flows west 408 mi (657 km) to empty into the Gulf of Cádiz. , past a host of stalls and bars selling drinks, snacks and tapas, with street entertainers adding to the fun.
There will also be horse-drawn carriages or cars laid on.
Whatever we think of bullfighting bullfighting, national sport and spectacle of Spain. Called the corrida de toros in Spanish, the bullfight takes place in a large outdoor arena known as the plaza de toros. , Seville's bullfight arena is an awesome structure of beautiful proportions. And the prospect of being able to join a huge crowd there, but not have to witness a bull fight - has definite appeal.
To get the atmosphere of a packed crowd, 5,000 extra Carmen tickets will be sold at a reduced price for the bull ring only.
The arena audience will be able to watch the earlier acts on a big screen, with everyone seeing the finale live.
The executive producer of Carmen is Michael Ecker, who was also behind the presentation of Puccini's Turandot in the Forbidden City Forbidden City: see Beijing and Chinese architecture.
Imperial Palace complex in Beijing, containing hundreds of buildings and some 9,000 rooms. It served the emperors of China from 1421 to 1911. in Beijing, in September 1998.
This year will be Seville's first international music festival and the aim is to place it alongside other international music festivals, such as Salzburg and Verona.
The organisers are thinking big: the projected budget is 22 million euros and about 130,000 visitors are expected - about half of them from outside Spain - over the 10 days from September 2.
Apart from Carmen, there will be a busy programme of concerts and recitals, with a star line-up led by the New York Philharmonic The New York Philharmonic is the oldest active symphony orchestra in the United States, organized during 1842. Based in New York City, the Philharmonic performs most of its concerts at Avery Fisher Hall and has long been considered one of the best orchestras in the world. and Russian National orchestras, the great cellist Rostropovich, violinist Maxim Vengerov Maxim Vengerov (born August 20, 1974 in Novosibirsk) is a Russian violinist virtuoso of Jewish origin.
Vengerov was five when he received his first violin lessons from Galina Turtschaninova and later at the Royal Academy of Music in London (Junior Department). and young pianist Lang Lang.
And, of course, there will more than a dash of flamenco.
Carmen is mentioned in more than 100 operas so the scope for future festivals is endless.
For 2005, the plan is to stage Beethoven's Fidelio in the ruined roman amphitheatre at Italica, just outside Seville. And in 2006, Mozart's Don Giovanni Don Giovanni: see Don Juan. is planned.
Then, of course, there's the Barber of Seville, the Marriage of Figaro, La Forza del Destino La forza del destino (The Force of Destiny) is an Italian opera by Giuseppe Verdi. The libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave based on a Spanish drama, Don Alvaro o La Fuerza de Sino ... the Seville opera connection seems as endless as the city's sightseeing gems.
Which brings us back to those castles and palaces, orange trees and tapas bars.....
FACTFILE FESTIVAL tickets and packages are available through the festival's website: www.carmeninsevilla.com/ english
Spanish Tourist Office tourist office n → oficina de turismo
tourist office tourist n → syndicat m d'initiative
tourist office tourist n
Tel.020 7486 8077
24-hour brochure line: 09063 640 630
(Calls cost 60p per minute at all times)
DASH OF FLAMENCO: Some of the performers taking part in Seville's first international music festival