The Opening show brought together over 17,000 people on the streets of Timișoara and especially in Unirii Square. The artists who kicked off the weekend, as early as Friday evening, were Doctorul Sinteză and Dj K-lu, followed by the Timisoara-based band Implant Pentru Refuz, along with special guests: Adrian Despot, Dan Byron, Ovidiu Takacs, Ovidiu Vinereanu, Dora Gaitanovici and Ukrainian soloist Alyona Alyona. In the continuation of the evening, the audience enjoyed the sensational aerial show, Muaré Experience, offered by the Spanish company Voalá Project, together with the Duchamp Pilot band.
The Balkan rhythms were brought to the stage in Piața Unirii by the instrumentalists from Taraf de Caliu, together with the band Impex, tambalist Alexei Ciobanu and Filip Simeonov. The Opening Night ended with the electronic music of the German DJ Fritz Kalkbrenner.
BR sat down with Codruța Vulcu and found out more details behind the organizing of the Opening of Timisoara 2023 – European Capital of Culture, the coordinator of the event.
By Romanita Oprea
When did you find out that you will be in charge of the musical side of the event?
For “Timișoara 2023 – European Capital of Culture” I am the Director of Large-Scale Events, position in which I took starting with September 2022.
What was the concept behind it and what were the criteria the artists had to fulfill in order to take part?
The entire opening event for “Timișoara 2023 – European Capital of Culture” was based on the idea of community, of embracing and celebrating cultural differences and heritage given the fact that, as we all know, Timisoara is the meeting place for various ethnic communities, like the Romanian, the Hungarian or the German one, communities that coexist and share values together, thus stimulating growth and innovation for this region.
That is why, as you could experience in the 17th – 19th of February festive weekend, both the musical side (on the main stage) and the exhibition side (art exhibitions, conferences, dialogues and debates) took the public on a cultural journey which guided attendants through various styles/ genres/ forms of artistic expression – from forms of world music (like the Taraf de Caliu’s music) to classical and electronic music or alternative rock, just to mention a few.
This festive weekend was dedicated to embracing differences and artistic excellence irrespective of the type of art or music genre, since virtuoso musicians and artists exist in every form of cultural expression.
What were the main challenges and how did you tackle them?
The first challenge was given by the sheer complexity of the opening weekend, given the fact that over 130 events were launched at that moment – from art exhibitions, to debate panels, live shows or music concerts.
Managing such a large-scale opening with such a variety of types of events, each with its own artistic and logistical particularities, and interacting with diverse teams is a beautiful but highly demanding task.
Yet, every challenge can be surpassed if one has the ability to understand people and the curiosity and openness towards working with people. Another important aspect is the ability to remain calm, objective and solution oriented irrespective of the circumstances, these being essential skills for any professional involved in the events industry.
What was the feedback from the public?
Like for any other complex event which is interesting for diverse categories of public, there were different points of view. The common ground for them, however, is given by the sheer complexity of the official launch and variety of happenings offered to all sorts of tastes, a complexity which can’t be denied by anyone.
What I have heard as feedback from members of official delegations arrived in Timisoara for the opening, is that it looked truly impressive.
What were the most wanted and liked performances and why do you think it was this way?
“Muaré Experience” was one of the most impressive performances because it offered a seamless mix between different arts: aerial performance and music combined with a unique visual and lighting design.
What were the most challenging performances, logistically speaking?
“Muaré Experience” was both one of the most impressive surprises of the opening and the most logistically challenging as it required bringing together more elements compared to a “standard” concert – technical elements, special sound engineering elements, a crane, specific health and safety measures etc.
To carry out the “Muaré Experience show” by the air show company Voala Project and the Duchamp Pilot band, a crane of 100-120 tons with an extendable arm of min. 40 m was needed, capable of lifting a structure with acrobats (dynamic load of 1,950 kg) from a certain point and to also carry them above the audience.
From a lighting point of view, we needed to place four light towers to illuminate the moments performed by the acrobats above the audience. And, apart from the resources needed by the participating bands/ artists, we also had to take into account Bobi Pricop’s instructions (the artistic director of the opening) to both enhance Piața Unirii through the controllable architectural lighting of the perimeter buildings and to ensure that the live broadcast will look good (the show was broadcasted live on TVR, aspect which has its own specific technical requirements). Taking into account all these considerations, for this aerial show, in Unirii Square, we used 314 lights (various types of lights).
What would you say to the critics?
I’m always opened to suggestions and to new ways of improvement offered by the people, especially by who play in the arena. I’m eager to find out perspectives which offer real solutions and alternative ways of solving the challenges met in such a complex project like “Timisoara 2023 – European Capital of Culture”.
What were the main good surprises?
After an intense period of work, we were very happy to see all our ideas and projects finally come to life.
It was extremely rewarding for me and for all my colleagues to see how the public reacted – to be able to observe the sincere joy on people’s faces when walking on the streets, to see how they discovered and appreciated every creative activation, exhibition, music concert or urban art installation. The “Nursery Project. 1306 plants for Timisoara” for example was met with an incredible enthusiasm by the public, as people queued to visit and interact with this installation every day during the opening weekend.
Another aspect which made us very happy and made us see that the official launch was a success was the large number of people attending the main stage concerts and events (over 60,000 people on the streets of Timișoara). This serves as a proof and also gives us the energy to continue to work on preparing beautiful surprises for people living in Timisoara.
How did the foreign artists perceive the whole experience?
They enjoyed being part of such an important event (the launch of a European Capital of Culture, which is a rare honor) but were also impressed by the beauty of Timișoara – from architectural point of view, to the warm welcoming and interactions with the people living here, to the charm of the chic places and restaurants one can find here.
What about the foreign guests?
We received positive feedback from the foreign guests as well. They were really impressed by the variety and diversity of the events, as they were able to see that we wanted to offer something for as many artistic tastes and preferences as possible. The red thread of the official opening, bringing together different cultural heritages and various arts, didn’t go unnoticed and was highly appreciated.
Also, during the festive weekend, between official meetings, exhibitions and concerts, they too had the chance to discover the charm of Timișoara and to enjoy the lovely cafes and restaurants that this city has to offer.
If you were to go back in time, would you change anything? Why?
As it is valid for any other event, there are aspects which one can always optimize, of course. But, looking back, I can clearly see that this project crystalized a beautiful team of nice and highly professional people who have the energy and the willingness to create great things. And this gives me confidence in the future.
What was the budget for the event for you and was it sufficient for what you had in mind initially?
For the official opening, there were approx. EUR 1,5 million allocated, a budget which had to accommodate a high variety of needs – from artist fees, artist production, to the requirement of cultural events, to accommodation and meals for the foreign official delegations, to all the transportation and logistics required by the +130 events, in 32 locations launched during the festive weekend.
Given the impressive complexity imposed by each of the above aspects, we had to optimize a lot the costs so that we can turn into reality everything we have planned.
We must take into account that the official opening of “Timișoara 2023 – European Capital of Culture” (a 3-day celebration) was a mammoth project which brought together an impressive amount of professionals and resources: +130 events, over 1,400 volunteers from Romania and from other countries (e.g.: Japan), 32 locations, 3 days of celebration.
What were your top 3 performances and why?
As you could guess, I personally enjoyed every performance as I am pro-cultural exchange, pro bringing together and mixing diverse cultural heritages.
However, if I must choose, I would mention Joep Beving, Jay-Jay Johanson and Taraf de Caliu.
I mentioned Joep Beving because his music is born out of a fascination for balance and energy. For looking for the communal in the apparently opposite, for nuance. But mostly, as himself says it very well, his music is born out of a desire to re-establish the connection with ourselves, with others and with what is fundamental in reality. Beyond the alienation and loneliness.
I particularly mentioned him because his music talks about both darkness and light, about enlightenment. And I believe that all these aspects and topics meant to be food for thought, brought to life by his music, are highly relevant in the current social, economic, cultural and geopolitical context.
Jay-Jay Johanson because, he is a complex artist as well, with collaborations which surpass the boundaries of a certain art. For example, in 2001 he composed the soundtrack to the film “La Confusion Des Genres”, made by French director Ilan Cohen, and also came up with “Cosmodrome”, a sound-and-image installation which was first exhibited in Dijon and further travelled around the world, having its final display at Musée d’Art Modern in Paris. The following year, these delicate electronic ingredients heard in “Cosmodrome” became a link into “Antenna”, album released 2002, an impressive and complex side project which was recorded with assistance from a German electronica experimentalists.
Apart from this and apart from his unique voice, Jay-Jay has a certain aesthetics which manages to fascinate the audience and an incredible flexibility that helped him explore many music genres and reinvent himself with each album during his extensive career. I particularly like the film noir arrangements which were very well highlighted in his debut album and the fact that he approaches deeper, sometimes darker themes related to the human nature, complex topics which we all need to reflect on.
I chose Taraf de Caliu because it speaks about the diverse cultural heritage and artistic excellence which the opening weekend was all about, the central idea I was mentioning earlier in this discussion. Their work represents a significative piece of world music, known and appreciated outside our borders as well, work which was also enjoyed and appreciated by the US ambassador, for example, who took the time to listen to a part of their live performance.
What was the idea behind the collaborations between the local and international artists? And how were the collaborations chosen?
These collaborations were designed to be a cultural meeting point and an occasion for meaningful cultural and artistic exchange powerful enough to surpass genres and geographies.
With these novel and unexpected collaborations we wanted not only to create new projects or music pieces, but also to offer the artists an experience and know-how which will be useful for them on the medium and long term. To have an added value which goes beyond one live concert.
Will you also coordinate other events this year under Timisoara European Capital 2023?
Yes, for this project, “Timișoara 2023 – European Capital of Culture”, I will also coordinate the City Celebration and the Closing event. The City Celebration intends to bring again in the city, close to Timișoara people, the arts, the music, the creativity and the joy of life. It will be a beautiful city celebration as we are working on bringing more surprises for the people living in Timisoara and for visitors. More details will be shared in the close future.
The Closing Event will crown the year of cultural events brought by the “Timișoara 2023 – European Capital of Culture”, as over 1,000 cultural events are planned to take place throughout 2023.