Despite having just 30,000 inhabitants, the island of Gozo has two opera houses in Ir-Rabat , the Astra Theatre and the Aurora Opera House. Each puts on at least one fully staged opera a year, often with international soloists. Infact, this opera season is now a regular appointment for opera enthusiasts.
Now in its 14th year, the Qala International Folk Festival has developed into a colourful celebration of cultures through folk dance and music.
For a whole weekend, the village of Qala is transformed into a hub of folk activities as the quaint village square is brought to life by a unique intercultural programme, that has grown to attract locals and visitors for its quality entertainment in an intimate, village setting.
This is a great opportunity to experience life at a village square while enjoying folk dance, music and traditional food, a true taste of Gozo in all senses.
For five weeks every year in June/July, Victoria joins the festival cities of the world, with artistes and ensembles from all over the world combining to leave their mark on the soul of the island. That is precisely what the Festival in the heart of Victoria, blending drive, professional ethos and the typical Gozo penchant for laid-back charm, has come to signify for an ever-widening network of patrons and admirers hailing from top music centres all over the world down to the cultural-minded visitor and local music lover. Culture makes places distinctive, engendering pride in the local community. It also makes a practical contribution in terms of sustainability, providing employment, encouraging learning and inspiring people to adopt creative and active lifestyles.
“Undoubtedly, Victoria boasts of a community fully inspired to build two magnificent theatres that have brought to Gozo’s magic shores world renowned artistes from all over the world. This city has developed an irresistible passion for musical culture…the Victoria Arts Festival, under the direction of Joseph Vella, is launched in the middle of June with its glittering musical choices.” The Times of Malta (That Super City of Culture, April 2014)
This April, Gozo will become a hub of activities in preparation for the Good Friday processions and pageants, which provide real life re-enactments of the life and passion of Christ. The pealing of church bells on Easter Sunday on the 21st April heralds the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ. An exuberant mode prevails in some localities as groups of bearers wearing the kunfratija, gloriously lift the statue of Christ along the streets to the sound of lively band marches. These celebrations intertwine with local life and traditions and offer the visitor an authentic experience of Gozo.
Carnival Week is undoubtedly one of the most colourful events in the Gozitan – and Maltese – calendar. Traditionally preceding Christian Lent, Carnival provides five days of revelry with many people dressing up in colourful costumes and covering their faces with masks.
Carnival is closely associated with Maltese folklore. It has been celebrated in Malta since the arrival of the Knights of St. John in 1530, and some studies date the first carnival revelry back as early as 1470. Up until 1751, carnival was an activity exclusive to Valletta, but that is certainly not true today.
In Gozo, the main activities take place in It-Tokk (Independence Square), the main square in Gozo’s capital Ir-Rabat and in In-Nadur. Ir-Rabat (Victoria)’s celebrations are the usual carnival fare much like those in Valletta with floats, costumes and general revelry. Carnival in Nadur is quite different.
Nadur’s carnival is deeply traditional and essentially spontaneous. There is no organising committee and there are no rules. In Nadur the purpose of costumes is disguise – quite simply not to be recognised. Sunset reveals a multitude of masked and hooded creatures thronging the streets. People wear all kinds of funny and grotesque costumes, some satirical, and most remain silent to aid their disguise, gaining the Nadur celebrations the sobriquet, The Silent Carnival.
The Nadur ‘floats’ are often little more than carts released from their duties on local farms but there is an edge to the celebrations. Amongst the absurd costumes are to be seen placards daubed with remarks, most of them insults to public (and sometimes private) personalities. In order to avoid libel, many are indirect or veiled references that need the knowledge of a local to interpret them.