Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

It's festival time for the cultural set

Dramatic entrance: The Prague Winter Festival uses the same stunning locations as its springtime counterpart
Crowd pleaser: More than 400 films will be shown at the Berlinale, making it a bigger festival than Cannes

Winter heralds some of the best events on stage and screen.

White Days, St Petersburg (2 Jan to 31 Mar)

Following the huge success of its White Nights summer festival, St Petersburg decided in 2003 to promote a series of performances held in the dead of winter and label them "White Days".

Though snow can't always be guaranteed these days in the old Russian capital, the romance of opera and ballet at the Mariinsky and concerts at the Great Hall of the Philharmonia has proved alluring. Visitors also get the chance to see the art collections held at the Hermitage and Russian Museum as well as walk along the chilly Neva embankment, like characters in a scene from Pushkin.

Further information: Mariinsky Theatre (00 7 812 326 4141; www.mariinsky.ru/en ). Grand Hotel Europe (0845 077 2222; grandhoteleurope.com ) offers a three-night package from 85,000 roubles (£2,010) per person, based on two sharing, including visits to the Hermitage, performances at the Mariinsky or Mussorgsky Theatres with private return transfers, B&B and one dinner in the hotel's Caviar Bar.

Prague Winter Festival (2-7 JAN)

Now in its 37th year, the Prague Winter Festival uses the same stunning locations as the world-famous Prague Spring Festival. Highlights this year include 'Swan Lake', danced at the Prague State Opera, and the ballet 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' at the historic Estates Theatre. There will also be performances at the National Theatre and the famous Dvorak Hall – both within walking distance of the dramatic Charles Bridge – of the Prague Rudolfinum.

Further information: Prague Winter Festival ( www.praguewinterfestival.com ). International Festivals Bureau (0870 247 1204; www.ifbarts.com ) offers three nights in Prague during the festival from €385 (£365) per person, based on two sharing, including B&B and tickets to performances.

Mozart Week, Salzburg (23 JAN-1 FEB)

Salzburg, with its snowy streets and warm cafés, is an ideal city to visit in winter. Given that Mozart did everything he could to get away, it's ironic that the city of his birth promotes its connection to him so avidly. The next Mozartwoche offers 25 events in 10 days, which will explore the creative connections between Mozart and Haydn. The festival claims that every Mozart interpreter of international repute has performed during the Mozartwoche. The 2009 event features the stellar talents of Andras Schiff, Simon Rattle, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez, who will also be conducting some of his own works.

Further information: Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum Salzburg (00 43 662 889400; www.mozarteum.at ). The Hotel Goldener Hirsch (00800 325 45454; www.luxurycollection.com/golden erhirsch ) on Getreidegasse, close to Mozart's birthplace, offers rooms from €210 (£200) per night, room only.

Berlinale, Berlin (5-15 FEB)

Two hundred thousand tickets to screenings of more than 400 films on 49 screens across Berlin makes this wintry film festival a much bigger event than Cannes, even if there are more professionals than celebrities on the ground. This time, to celebrate 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Berlinale will be showcasing "After Winter Comes Spring – Films Presaging the Fall of the Wall", a season of films made in both Germanys during the last decade of the Cold War. On a lighter note, on 12 February, the festival, now in its 59th year, will honour French film composer Maurice Jarre, presenting him with an Honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement.

Further information: Berlinale ( www.berlinale.de ). Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin (00 49 30 22610; www.hotel-adlon.de ) offers double rooms during the festival from €295 (£280) per night, room only.

Glasgow Film Festival (12-22 FEB)

The Glasgow Film Festival will be showing 130 films, spread across 12 venues, in 2009. Special events for the festival's fifth year include a retrospective on Audrey Hepburn (above), who would have been 80 in 2009, and a "Great Scot" celebration of the 25th anniversary of Bill Forsyth's 'Comfort and Joy'. There will also be a season of Mexican films and live performances of film music in The Arches, one of Europe's leading arts venues, located somewhat unusually below Glasgow Central station. The festival offices in the Glasgow Film Theatre are worth visiting while you're in the city; this listed building off Sauchiehall Street was designed by McKissack and Anderson in a Dutch Modernist style.

Further information: Glasgow Film Theatre (0141-332 6535; www.glasgowfilmfestival.org.uk ). The former railway hotel, now the Millennium (0141-332 6711; www.MillenniumHotels.co.uk/Glasgow ), offers rooms from £93 per night during the festival.

Seattle Winter Festival (22-25 JAN)

Seattle's winter chamber music festival has been running for 11 years now, brightening up the evenings at Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. The city of television's 'Frasier' has a well-honed reputation for culture, with one of America's best opera companies less than a mile from Benaroya, and the Seattle Art Museum just around the block. This time the festival will offer four concerts and three pre-concert recitals, including a whole evening devoted to that great and unfairly neglected neo-classicist Johannes Brahms. The annual preview lecture is "Brahms: Romanticism and Restraint" delivered by Adam Stern, music director of the Seattle Philharmonic.

Further information: The Seattle Chamber Music Festival (00 1 206 283-8808; www.scmf.org ) is offering festival packages with accommodation in the recently refurbished Alexis Hotel on First Avenue. Prices start at $288 (£274) for two, including B&B and concert tickets.



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