Written by Szidonia Lorincz
For anyone who lives in Malta and is interested in culture, the past years have been filled with curiosity and anticipation as Valletta was up for the European Capital of Culture in 2018. On the 20th of January the day finally arrived when the series of events were launched within the framework of a grand and stunning opening ceremony.
The city has been buzzing for the past couple of months, and the entrance to Valletta has been blocked by construction works. The statues of the Triton fountain have been sent to the prestigious Fonderia Artistica Ferdinando Marinelli in Florence to be cleaned and restored for the opening. And finally for the day it was ready and back to its original glory. People have already started gathering, taking pictures or just admiring this beautiful piece of art right at the entrance of the city.
Days before the ceremony news has spread that organizers were expecting approximately a hundred thousand people at the opening. That is about 20 thousand more people than those who have been to the new years eve celebrations. People from around Europe have come to witness this event as well as many Maltese culture lovers. The roads have been closed down and everyone seems to be prepared for the big day.
A series of performances and shows made sure that everyone got what they came for. Right at the city gates a huge wheel welcomed the crowd into the city of Valletta with performers hanging inside of it, and various street performers and musicians entertaining the guests while they made their ways to the major performances.
The opening consisted of four major performances in four big squares of the city: Triton Square, St George’s Square, St John’s Square and Castille Square. Each performance took about 20-30 minutes, and they were repeated every hour for 5 hours, so people had time to go to the next location.
It was obvious how much effort and talent the organizers had put into each performance. At Triton Square La Fura dels Baus, a Spanish theatre company hosted the show. 60 acrobatic performers formed a human net about 15 meters above the square and Triton fountain. The acrobats were selected from local talent, and the spectacular show left nothing to be desired. The choreorgraphy was well synched with the rhytmic and mystic music, and the spirit and energy of the acrobats completely drew in the audience. No one could take their eyes off the performers.
On St George’s Square ZfinMalta hosted a modern dance show put on stage by Paolo Mangiola, and music composed by Cyprian Cassar. The talented dancers entertained the spectators with a mixture of dance interacting with visuals and lighting effects by Blaze Animation and Mad About you Video. The square provided the perfect spot for the great stage and the lighting effects.
On Castille Square the show consisted of a series of 3D projections on the Auberge de Castille. The sequence portrayed Malta’s varied and eventful past, taking the viewer through a timeline of major events, accompanied by mythical and symbolic characters, and giving a peek into the fruitful and great future of the island. The CGI and visual effects were accompanied by music and narration, showing Malta’s road to independence and a preview of it’s even more successful future.
St John’s Square hosted a newly written choral symphony, performed on the steps of St John’s cathedral. The beautiful music was composed by Elton Zarb, lyrics written by Julian Farrugia. The choir gave a moving and truly emotional performance with the direction of Pamela Brezzina. During this performance there was a spectacular lighting show with projections tailored to the facade of the cathedral, showcasing many elements of Maltese culture and history.
Although all the shows were spectacular and well fitting to the occasion and the grandeur of the event, the organization has left much to desire. Apart from the infamous public transport being very poorly organized, leaving people to wait hours for a bus, the pedestrian traffic didn’t prove to be any better. There were no clear directions as to how to make the journey from one pjazza to the other, and oftentimes crowds found themselves completely stuck while parents struggled to get strollers and crying children out of the chaos.
Another instance that left many foreign spectators as well as myself puzzled was that none of the introductions were provided in English. There was a mixed Maltese and international spectatorship, approximately a hundred thousand people in a European event and the organizers forgot to cater to about one third of the audience.
All in all it was a high quality show, that set the bar high for the coming year, however the lackings in the organization took a lot away from the experience and left many people with a bad taste in their mouths. Let’s hope that the rest of the events will make up for the shortcomings and we can look forward to a truly successful cultural year.