The origins of the International Festival of Music and Dance of Granada lie in the orchestral concerts that have been held in the Palace of Charles V since 1883 during the Corpus Christi celebrations and which, already in the 19th century, gave the city the first opportunity to hear and to enjoy live performances of the great European repertoire of “great orchestras”. Also of special relevance in those days was the Cante Jondo Competition of 1922 organised by García Lorca, Falla and other intellectuals and artists such as Andrés Segovia, Fernando de los Ríos, Zuloaga, Manuel Ángeles Ortiz, Turina and Rusiñol.
The Festival was first organised in 1952 under the name “First Festival of Spanish Music and Dance”, under the auspices of the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Culture and the Spanish Ministry of Information and Tourism and the special colaboration of the Centro Artístico of the town. The Director General of Fine Arts at the time, Antonio Gallego Burín, made a significant statement in which he said: «Our intention is to attract in the future… the main music organisations in the world to give continuity to what we have started today with our own national elements. We also want our work in the music arts to extend to special courses and research into Spanish music and may the first festival be the start of a Spanish enterprise of universal renown».
In accordance with the principles set out in the first year, in 1953 the II International Festival of Music and Dance of Granada was held and this name has been preserved to this day. That year saw the opening of the cypress theatre in the Generalife Gardens which was purpose built to accommodate the Festival’s performances of Spanish dance and classical ballet. This was the start of a model of Festival which has been maintained till today.
The International Festival of Music and Dance of Granada is one of the most well-known and attractive cultural events of the city. It is held in the months of June and July in the palaces of the Alhambra and the venues include the main sites and most beautiful parts of the city. The Granada Festival has become widely known for the impressive performance venues and for the presence of the most outstanding performers of the day, together with an accurate inclusion of young artists who will undoubtedly become the great performers of the future.
Many are the images that have appeared around the world of Arthur Rubinstein, Victoria de los Angeles and Andrés Segovia performing in the magnificent Moorish settings in the Alhambra; of Carl Schuricht, Herbert von Karajan and Sergiu Celibidache conducting in the Palace of Charles V, and of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev dancing in the Generalife Gardens, to name but a few examples. And the Festival can also be justifiably proud of having identified at a very young age such figures as Teresa Berganza, Lorin Maazel, Marta Argerich, Antonio the dancer, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Jessye Norman, Montserrat Caballé and Joaquín Achúcarro among others. This trend has continued to the present day when each year, side by side with the great exponents of music and dance, outstanding young artists, musicians and dancers are invited to include in their projects top professionals who are prepared to back interesting new projects.
Throughout its history the Festival has adopted new ways of addressing society. It currently presents each year three basic items of activity:
- The Festival itself which since 1952 has been held in the Alhambra and in other venues of outstanding beauty in and around the city, with a programme of the highest quality based traditionally on classical music, opera, ballet and Spanish dance, flamenco and interesting samples of ancient and contemporary music.
- The International Manuel de Falla Courses, established in 1970.
- The FEX or extension of concerts, shows and other free activities in the city and the province which, since 2004, has been a flexible and versatile receptacle of the most varied types of cultural activities.
The Festival plunges the city and the visitor into a fiesta atmosphere. To respond to the call is to discover the magic that music and dance exert over monuments; to enjoy its programmes is to understand culture as a meeting point between different traditions, and also as a meeting point between history and new creations. The activities involving the Festival bring together each year almost 60,000 people who are attracted by the magic of performances in unique venues. And all linked to the outstanding heritage of Granada, its sights and gardens, its culture and its history which makes the International Festival of Music and Dance of Granada an unmissable cultural event in early summer in Spain.
The Granada Festival was the first Spanish member of the European Festivals Association (EFA) to which it has belonged since 1955; it is also a founding member of the Spanish Association of Classical Music Festivals, FestClásica, since 2007.
The Festival’s programmes are enjoyed, year after year, by thousands of people in Granada and they are followed by thousands more music lovers all over the world thanks to the efforts of Radio Clásica of the Spanish State Radio (RNE) and other broadcasters of the Euroradio network.
Since 1970 the Granada Festival is honoured to have as its Honorary President Her Majesty the Queen Sofía. The Festival currently enjoys the institutional participation of the Ministry of Culture, the Regional Government of Andalucía, the Granada Town Hall, the Granada City Council, the University of Granada and the Board of Management of the Alhambra and Generalife. It also counts on the help of many sponsors and collaborators.