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Switzerland’s Best Art and Culture Events: Spring and Summer 2014
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Switzerland’s Best Art and Culture Events: Spring and Summer 2014

Picture of Graziano Scaldaferri
Updated: 9 February 2017
Switzerland’s cultural calendar is always filled with a number of unique, must-see events spanning music, food, art and film. This spring and summer offer an exceptionally busy schedule as Art Basel and the Lucerne Festival return to their respective homes. We take a look beyond Geneva, Switzerland’s cultural capital, and select our ten favourite events and festivals taking place in Zurich, Bern, Basel, Lucerne and more.




Opera | Avenches Opèra

4 – 12 July

The Romans settled in the Swiss location of Avenches, which was then called Aventicum, near the end of the 1st century BC. The well-preserved remains of a beautiful amphitheater they built there is the modern, magical setting of the Avenches Opera Festival, one of Europe’s top opera events. The festival returns every summer to offer its spectators a single opera chosen from among the world’s best-known. In previous editions, Nabucco, Aida, La Traviata, Rigoletto and others were performed at Avenches; this year, the choice fell on French composer George Bizet’s Carmen, the tragic story of a sensual gypsy woman whose power to seduce men will eventually result in her downfall. In Avenches, the role of Carmen will be enacted by the excellent French singer Béatrice Uria Monzon.

Avenches Amphitheater, Avenches, Switzerland





Art | Odilon Redon exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler

Until 18 May

The work of French artist Odilon Redon, one of the pioneers of classical modernism in Europe, is above all interesting for the radical evolution it experienced over the years and the abundance of contrasts it represents. Passionate about drawing since he was a child, Redon (1840-1916) started his artistic career by producing black charcoal drawings and lithographs. By the 1890s, however, he abandoned them completely in favour of pastels and oils, with which he took to producing extremely colourful work, unprecedented for his standards. His wildly imaginative paintings combine lyric and much eerier elements, and often incorporate references to Eastern cultures (the figure of the Buddha, for instance, is seen in several of his works). The exhibition dedicated to Redon in Fondation Beyeler is a great opportunity to learn more about the ouvre of this enigmatic artist.

Fondation Beyeler Baselstrasse 101, Riehen, Switzerland





Comics | Polymanga

18 – 21 April

Polymanga is held annually during Easter time, but the connections between this amazing pop culture event and the religious occurrence stop right there. Participating in Polymanga is like being sucked up into a parallel world inhabited by comic characters, a rare occasion in which the simple fact of being human might be an embarrassing feature. This four-day event celebrates the playful culture of manga, comics and video games through an incredible wealth of shows, screenings, concerts and tournaments, with the cosplay contests – where the contestants dress up in the costumes of their favourite heroes – being one of the funnest attractions. Sprawling over a 12,000-square-metre space, Polymanga is where the geeky crowd joins thousands of fellow passionate gamers to have their revenge against the regular, dull, human world.

2m2c – Montreux Musique & Convention Center, 95 Grand Rue, Montreux, Switzerland



Music | Montreux Jazz Festival

4 – 19 July

Music fans, rejoice! The Montreux Jazz Festival is coming back for its 48th edition, and promises to once again please even the most seasoned of music connoisseurs. The festival was born in 1967 as a jazz-only event, and welcomed jazz legends such as Miles Davis, Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald in its early editions. From the 1970s on, however, more musical genres were progressively encompassed, to the point that today, despite the name and jazz still being the star of the festival, Montreux Jazz makes a great choice for aficionados of every kind of music. Top artists as diverse as Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Bjork and Gilberto Gil have made their appearance on the festival’s stages. In addition to the exceptional music, Montreux Jazz Festival stands out for its astounding venues, which include the beautiful Auditorium Stravinski, as well as three theme boats and a quirky train to enjoy live music on the move.

Various locations across Montreux





Film | Locarno Film Festival

6 – 16 August

This year, Locarno Film Festival celebrates its 67th birthday, but much like a good bottle of wine, the more it ages, the better it gets. Situated in the Swiss-Italian location of Locarno, the festival has a seat among Europe’s best film events alongside Cannes’, Venice’s and Berlin’s film festivals. As such, every cinema lover should make time to visit Locarno’s festival; the competition has several sections, the most important being the Concorso Internazionale, which awards with the prestigious Pardo d’Oro (Golden Leopard) the winning film among a refined selection of international auteur films by both established and emerging film-makers. Unique to Locarno’s festival is the projection of films in the city’s Piazza Grande, a beautiful, large square that can host up to 8,000 people to enjoy the same film, at the same time, beneath the stars.

Piazza Grande, Locarno, Switzerland





Music | Blue Balls Festival

18 – 26 July

Blue Balls is one of Switzerland’s top music festivals, with a very respectable history of 21 editions already behind its belt. The Lucerne event has been gaining recognition internationally thanks to the revered artists who have performed here in the past: Billy Idol, Tracy Chapman, Jethro Tull and Van Morrison, among others. Blue Balls embraces all music genres, although pop probably has the upper hand, and distinguishes itself for offering art and film shows as a side to the main music events. This year, the likes of James Blunt, Travis, Joss Stone and the goddess of trip-hop, Goldfrapp, will perform in front of over 100,000 visitors who join Blue Balls every year to dance the night through.

Various locations across Lucerne



Music | Lucerne Festival

15 August – 14 September

Classical music in Europe reaches its highest peaks across three cities in particular, home to the continent’s best classical music festivals: Germany’s Bayreuth, Austria’s Salzburg, and Switzerland’s Lucerne. The Lucerne Festival has a long history of excellence that dates as far back as 1938, when celebrated Italian maestro Arturo Toscanini conducted the concert now considered to be the festival’s start. With spin-offs at Easter time and in November, the Lucerne Festival in summer represents the event’s core. For about a month, the best international musicians, orchestras and conductors gather in Lucerne attracted by the festival’s unquestionable fame, and offer an exceptional calendar of both solo and orchestra concerts.

Kultur und Kongresszentrum, Europaplatz 1, Lucerne, Switzerland





Art | From Matisse to the Blue Rider at the Zurich Kunsthaus

Until 11 May

Zürich’s Kunsthaus art gallery is currently hosting the From Matisse to the Blue Rider, a one of its kind exhibition in Europe. This is a unique and unmissable opportunity for art lovers to discover the relationships between French and German art in the early 20th century. Indeed, the artistic movement of expressionism has long been considered a regional production of German artists; the Kunsthaus’ exhibition brilliantly explores in greater depth the influences that French avant-garde movements, such as impressionism and fauvism, had on expressionist painters through over 100 masterpieces by 37 artists (Matisse, Kandinsky, Gauguin, Heckel and more). The works are cleverly arranged to create a fascinating dialogue between French and German modernist art that is sure to update any visitor’s knowledge of art history.

Kunsthaus, Heimplatz 1, Zürich, Switzerland



Art | African Masters at the Museum Rietberg

Until 1 June

Now on show at Zürich’s Museum Rietberg before traveling to Paris and Amsterdam, African Masters is a must-see exhibition. Over 200 artworks – mainly wood sculptures and masks – are on display at African Masters; but unlike other exhibitions of African art, where the pieces are put together as the collective ouvre of African culture without precise artistic paternity, Museum Rietberg presents the works of over 40 artists while acknowledging their individuality. The statement is clear: African art is not a random collection of objects coming in from the continent, but is the result of the work of individual artistic voices, each one with a personal take and a peculiar vision.

Museum Rietberg, Gablerstrasse 15, Zürich, Switzerland