For over 70 years the Holland Festival in Amsterdam has been a mainstay of Dutch culture, offering a unique assortment of events ranging from fully-staged operas to immersive workshops; from genre-defying concerts to exploratory theatre. With over 50 scheduled events and hundreds of artists from all over the planet taking part, the 2020 incarnation this June promises to be the most exciting offering yet. 

© Thonik
© Thonik

For opera lovers, this is your chance to catch the latest work from Australian multi-disciplinary composer and producer Ben Frost. Fresh from its premiere in April, Staatsoper Hannover’s production of The Murder of Halit Yozgat is coming to the Grote Zaal theatre for just three nights. Only the composer’s second opera, the piece follows the real-life investigation by a London-based research agency of the murder of a young Turkish immigrant by the German Neo-Nazi terrorist group National Socialist Underground. Through a combination of sound art, electronic music and dark metal, Frost – who also directs – guides the audience through this chilling tale of alt-right conspiracy and racially motivated brutality.

<i>Rusalka</i> © Florian Joahn
Rusalka
© Florian Joahn

For the more traditionalist opera fans, the jewel in the heart of this year’s festival will surely be Dutch National Opera’s brand-new production of Rusalka, Dvořák’s fin de siècle masterpiece based on fairytales from his Bohemian homeland. Jakub Hrůša, the Chief Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony, leads the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and a cast that includes Italian soprano Eleonora Buratto – her first time in the title role – and star American tenor Brian Jagde. Mentored by maestro Jiřì Bêlohlávek – a specialist in Czech repertoire – the young Hrůša will be keen to stamp his mark on one of the greats in the operatic canon. He joins forces with German director Philipp Stölzl, a new face at DNO, in what promises to be an unforgettable theatrical experience. Rusalka opens in Amsterdam on the 6th June and will run until the 28th. For those who like their opera all'aperto, you can also catch it from the comfort of Park Frankendael, where it will be screened on the 23rd. 

Also opening on the 6th at the Grote Zaal is Curriculum, a new dance piece conceived by American choreographer and Holland Festival stalwart Bill T. Jones, performed by the company he co-founded with Arnie Zane. Using one of his own works from 1995 entitled New Duet as a starting point, and with a new set of performers each night, Curriculum combines words and dance in a semi-improvised, politically charged piece that aims to confront contemporary issues head on. Other dance performances at this year’s Holland Festival include Nadia Beugré’s L’homme rare, which questions traditional ideas of ‘feminine’ movement, and Beethoven’s only ballet, The Creatures of Prometheus, re-choreographed by Wubkje Kuindersma, Ernst Meisner and Remi Wörtmeyer and performed alongside Hans van Manen’s critically acclaimed Grosse Fuge – the ‘most important European ballet of the decade’ – from the 11th to the 24th. 

Bill T. Jones © Christina Lane
Bill T. Jones
© Christina Lane

If you’re looking to get stuck into some dance yourself, on the 11th members of Bill T. Jones’s company will be giving a one-off workshop, inviting members of the public to explore his unique approach to dance and find out first-hand how it feels to realise his work. You can also catch Jones himself on the 14th when he presents an evening of music and discussion with Ensemble Klang and vocalist Sabrina Sarke. In a concert that he hopes will ‘expand minds and open hearts’, Jones shares his perspective on art’s meaning and process, as well as his relationship with the work of other black artists, via a curated programme of traditional and contemporary works.

One of the primary aims of the Holland Festival is to encourage innovation and the development of new work. Renegade Dutch composer Louis Andriessen provides one of several world premieres in this year’s programme with his piece for for choir and orchestra, May. Written as a homage to his late friend, the conductor and recorder player Frans Brüggen, the piece takes the opening words of Herman Gorter’s poem ‘Mei’ – ‘A new spring and a new sound…’ – as its inspiration. The Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, the ensemble Brüggen founded, gives the work its first outing alongside a programme of music that spans 500 years. Andriessen’s 1954 Sweet joins Polish composer Paweł Szymański’s À la recherche de la symphonie perdue (also dedicated to Brüggen), along with works by Bach, Mozart and Josquin des Prez. You can catch this concert on either the 7th or the 8th at the main hall of the Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ.

<i>The Creatures of Prometheus</i> © Florian Joahn
The Creatures of Prometheus
© Florian Joahn

For anybody following the new generation of jazz musicians coming out of New York, a chance to catch the Brooklyn-based collective Snarky Puppy play a rare acoustic one-off gig at the Concertgebouw on the 20th is not to be missed. Bassist Michael League and his Grammys-award-winning ensemble return to the country in which they recorded the groundbreaking album We Like It Here for a concert that moves away from the energetic jazz, soul and funk that gained them worldwide recognition, and instead embraces an all-acoustic, stripped-back approach. If you’re looking for something in the jazz vein that’s a little more experimental, catch vocalist and composer Elaine Mitchener on the 27th paying tribute to some of her spiritual, political and artistic heroes from the 60s and 70s African-American jazz avant-garde. Joined by an ensemble of world-class British musicians, Mitchener reinterprets music by the likes of Eric Dolphy, Archie Shepp and Jeanne Lee in an evening that brings the Black Lives Matter movement centerstage at the Bimhuis jazz club. Click here to find out more about Holland Festival.

This article was sponsored by Holland Festival.

Update 3/04/2020: Dutch National Opera’s production of Rusalka has now been cancelled.