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Notte Bianca is Back!

Notte Bianca is Back!

Notte Bianca, the Valletta festival, is back with new artistic director Sean Buhagiar at its helm. Get ready for massive flying structures, magic in a medieval library… and random bickering Knights.

Massive flying structures, magic in a medieval library, a live jukebox choir on the stairs of St John’s co-Cathedral… for one night in October, Valletta will take on several of its possible incarnations, imagination and reality coming together in one festival.

To be held on Saturday 5 October, this year’s Notte Bianca brings a fresh exuberant approach which celebrates randomness, possibility, the imagination. Attracting over 60,000 people to the capital each year, the largest cultural event in Valletta has re-invented itself into a rich kaleidoscopic fantasy.

You have to be prepared for anything when walking through the designated entrance to the festival. Turn a corner and you might bump into a solitary pianist, for instance. Take a few more steps and you might observe three French soldiers having an argument on a balcony. An innocent trip in the Upper Barrakka lift will turn into a short recital, as actors narrate a story. Actors on large bay guard-style chairs with megaphones will shout out directions. You might encounter a massive flying structure over the Valletta skyline. Or you might walk into the national library – that medieval treasure trove – and immerse yourself in a magic show. Afterwards, you might even chance across a hip hop performance on the fountain of Pjazza San Ġorġ.

Not everything will be random, of course. Music concerts will still be held in organised indoor locations, although this year they will be grouped by genre and will focus on original music. If you walk into the Suq tal-Belt, for instance, you can expect to find a curated gastronomy themed event with electroswing music. Hastings Gardens will host a large curated flea market featuring florists, portrait artists, antiques, crafts, car-boot sales, home-made foods and all other sorts of stands featured in Maltese markets. It will also provide the venue for Żiffażfin, an international dance expo. Science in the City, a festival consisting of several innovative and entertaining activities of science-inspired art, theatre, and music, will take place in the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Villaġġ will be a trade fair at St James Bastion, for anyone who wants to exhibit or sell in Notte Bianca.

Other projects will be spread out over more than one location. PintaTeatru, a site-specific project around Valletta, will this year be celebrating the 20th anniversary since the death of Malta’s major playwright Francis Ebejer.

Some projects will add a touch of poetry. In Milonga Maltija, a tango milonga will be held on the bridge of St Barbara Bastions. And Il-Poeta tas-Sbuħija, a contemporary dance performance with live music inspired by the life and works of Rużar Briffa and celebrating the 50th anniversary of his demise, will be held in Pjazza Repubblika. In Merchant of Valletta, Merchants Street will be buzzing with exciting street artists. A virtual choir project will also premier live at Notte Bianca and will include mapped projections on Auberge de Castille in Urbe Nova. And in a new twist, the Marsamxett area will be transformed into a jazz quarter.

There is, too, more than a touch of surprise and humour. So, in Pjazza Orkestra, a concert by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra with music by Karl Fiorini, the performance will feature an exciting new use of Pjazza San Ġorġ. There will also be a children’s area, a fun train, contemporary installations, cartoons, a digital game exhibition and countless other projects inspired by the energy and imagination running through the capital on the night.

For the first time this year, too, Notte Bianca will have an official opening, complete with coloured smoke and In Guardia troops firing cannons from all over Valletta. This will kickstart the festival at 6pm. A closing breakfast at 2am at the Casino Maltese will bring the night to an end.

In between, Valletta will be transformed into a city mapped out with a fairytale fantasy. This is not so much an underworld – as an otherworld – Valletta as it perhaps was in the past, Valletta as it perhaps could be, Valletta as it will never really be. Cannons, coloured smoke, balloons – nothing is too colourful or too brash. Levels are deliberately crossed – between street and balcony level, between past and present, between the real and the possible.

Much of this new vision is down to its new artistic director Sean Buhagiar. Best-known for his theatre work and his most recent project Ċirku Malta, the Maltese circus show at the Malta Arts Festival, Sean wandered the streets of Valletta endlessly, listening to its echoes, whispers and stories. “My biggest challenge is to make these voices a reality,” he says. This year’s Notte Bianca will bring some of them to life, showing a different side to the city we all know.

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About Notte Bianca

Notte Bianca is Malta’s biggest annual arts and culture festival. For one special night every October, Notte Bianca lights up the Valletta cityscape with a spectacular celebration that is open to the public free of charge.

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