In 2011, on the occasion of the second centennial of the birth of the Hungarian composer Franz Liszt, and in the 150th year of the Unification of Italy, the first edition of the Bellagio Festival was born, with concerts, master classes, meetings, seminars and cultural tourist itineraries inspired by the Hungarian composer, who spent some of the most important months of his life and artistic career at Bellagio and Como.
From the first edition until today, with more than two hundred events, the festival has traced out a route of art, music and literature in a project of cultural tourism that spans the entire Lake region. It has come alive through the legacy of great figures from international musical heritage like Franz Liszt, Giuseppe Verdi, Richard Wagner and Arturo Toscanini, and draws inspiration from personalities of art and literature like Stendhal, Flaubert, Manzoni and many others, representing a historical period in which Italy was sought out by intellectuals, and the journey to Italy was seen as an obligatory formative experience for each and every artist.
In 2012 and in 2013, the artistic merit of the festival was recognized by the President of the Italian Republic, who bestowed his Medal of Honour upon the Festival of Bellagio and Lake Como.
The next goal of the Bellagio Festival is Expo 2015, with a project that aims to combine the great historical and artistic heritage and natural beauty of these places with the challenge to imagine and construct an exciting new future.
THE ARTISTS’ LAKE
The lake, with its light and reflections, has fascinated and seduced the most important and unforgettable names in art. These are the places where they lived some of the most intense moments of their artistic and sentimental lives.
Scientists like Alessandro Volta, thinkers like Cesare Beccaria, musicians like Liszt, Rossini, Bellini, Verdi and Wagner, men of letters like Manzoni, Fogazzaro, Stendhal, Flaubert and Foscolo.
“Nothing in the universe compares with the charm of these scorching days of summer on the lake,” wrote Stendhal in 1812. And in an unforgettable page of The Certosa of Parma, he also described the two branches of the lake thusly: “The Como branch, so voluptuous; the one that goes towards Lecco, so full of austerity: sublime, graceful aspects that, as far as the Bay of Naples, the most famous place for beauty is concerned, equals but does not surpass.”
Alessandro Manzoni dedicated the opening of his The Betrothed to the lake, and almost the entire work is set in these places. Liszt described Bellagio thusly: «I know of no other place that is so manifestly blessed; I have never seen another in which the enchantment of a life of love appear more natural.»
Like Ravello, Pesaro, Cremona and Tivoli, Lake Como has a unique, marvellous heritage, known all over the world thanks to the lives of great artists, experts and seekers of beauty.
THE CHARM OF THE FESTIVAL’S PLACES
The places chosen by the Festival are truly dreamlike scenarios, full of history and bursting with the vitality and energy of nature which surrounds this area and makes it a prestigious destination of sought-after, refined tourism.
Exclusive, marvellous locations on the lake, like the Salone Reale of the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, the auditorium of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Basilica di San Giacomo in Bellagio, the Villa Cipressi and Villa Monastero in Varenna, Villa Grumello in Como; little villages and unexpected scenarios like the Abbazia dell’Acquafredda in Lenno, Lutheran church in Cadenabbia and the surroundings of Bellano; suggestive, panoramic places like the Villa Vigoni in Loveno, the church yard of the Church of San Martino in Perledo, the theatre in Civenna; places full of history like the Castle in Carimate and the villas in the Brianza area, as well as spacious modern venues like the Sala Artsana in Grandate and the auditorium of the Chambers of Commerce of Como and Lecco – these are only a few of the many venues that have hosted the Festival of Bellagio and Lake Como.
From 2011 to the present day, more than forty places in the provinces of Como and Lecco have opened their doors and offered their best spaces to the audiences of the Bellagio Festival.
Many, many artists have been guests in the different editions of the Festival of Bellagio and Lake Como. Oscar prizewinners, like the Argentine pianist and composer Luis Bacalov, and undisputable protagonists in the history of music, like the Hungarian master Tamas Vasary; the greatest Italian concert performers and representatives of the greatest international institutions, like the Liszt Academy in Budapest, United States universities, prestigious chamber groups and great symphonic orchestras.
The Festival of Bellagio and Lake Como has rapidly gained international visibility, becoming an artistic focal point for trends in contemporary music on a national scale.
The Festival is also a space for the production of performances thanks to the Bellagio Festival Orchestra, which has created original stage sets and hosted soloists and directors from all over the world.
Finally, the Festival of Bellagio and Lake Como is an international showcase for young artists through concerts organized in collaboration with conservatories and music academies, as well as through various competitions and prizes, like the international competition for performers and the Franz Liszt Prize for Pianist-Composers. Moreover, since 2014, the Bellagio Festival has enriched its offerings through a new international opera prize, which will be hosted by the City of Grandate.