THE DOLCE Vitaj festival, a play on words suggesting a connection between Italy (“dolce” means sweet) and Slovakia (“vitaj” means welcome), has become a staple of the yearly cultural activities in June, both in and outside Bratislava.

The festival coincides with the start of Italy’s European Union presidency, which will be reflected in the schedule.

Combining the efforts of the Italian Embassy in Slovakia, the Italian Culture Institute, the Italian Chamber of Commerce, the city of Bratislava and various national institutions and sponsors, the series of events offers a plethora of various experiences, providing a vivid impression of what Italian culture, art and lifestyle is all about.

Dolce Vitaj opens on June 3 with a concert by soprano Cristina Ferri accompanied by pianist Simone Marziali in the Hall of Mirrors of the Prima- te’s Palace. Admission is free, but the capacity of the hall is limited.

The same day will feature the photo exhibition Oscar Portraits of Italian-Slovak Lucia Gardin.

Gardin’s mother, Eva Rosenbaumová, recently passed away, but was a Slovak lecturer at the university in Rome and helped Slovak intellectuals gain recognition in Italy. The exhibition of Gar- din’s work can be seen bet-ween June 3 and 20, in the Dvorana Hall of the Culture Ministry in SNP Square.
Film will have a strong presence in this year’s festival, and a show of Italian mo-vies called Cine Vitaj will take place on June 5-8 in Pisztory Palace on Štefánikova Street. The screenings will include six Slovak premieres of internationally awarded films.

Italian music will also get plenty of stage time, with classical music played by the Chamber Orchestra Sinfonietta Bratislava and Slovak soloists Dalibor Karvay, Pavel Bogacz Jr (both violin), Peter Baran (cello) and 13-year-old prodigy Ferdinand Slezák (violin) performing period original Italian instruments by Stradivarius, Amati, Amici and Ruggieri. On June 17, they will play the works of Bach, Vivaldi, Paganini, Albinioni, Bartók, Benda and Iľja Zeljenka in St Martin’s Cathedral. Admission is free.

More modern musical genres will be represented too: on June 13, the band Gabin will play ‘nu-jazz’ within the E-ON Jazz Night event in the Design Factory. Prominent Italian pianist Roberto Cacciapaglia, who plays film scores in addition to contemporary classical music, makes his debut appearance in Slovakia with his Alphabet World Tour 2014. His concert on July 3 in the Slovak Radio building on Mýtna 1 will mark the Italian takeover of the EU presidency, starting two days earlier. Tickets cost €15 and can be purchased through the ticketportal website.

Gastronomy is an easy and satisfying way of getting to know and appreciate another country’s culture. Italian eno-gastronomy has already received a warm reception in Slovakia, and two successful events will be repeated this year: Vino Vitaj on June 6 will present the country’s wines in downtown Bratislava, and a typical Italian market will bring national delicacies to Hviezdoslavovo Square on the weekend of June 20-22.

Outside the capital

Slovakia is more than just the capital, the head of the Italian Culture Institute said, thus stressing the fact that Dolce Vitaj will visit other corners of Slovakia, too. Gastronomy will be celebrated in Poprad, where the Viva Italia festival combines food with opera (the Babjak brothers singing arias), popular music (Italian guitarist Ruggero Robin will join forces with Slovak singer Peter Cmorík) and the performance of newly-formed Slovak-Italian band Salix Nel Granaio.

The Tatra Gallery will host a Prosecco Party featuring 1980s Italian disco, as well as the photo exhibition of documentarian Danielle Pellegrini, called The World Through the eyes of an Italian. The competition of Poprad cafes for the Espresso Italiano Poprad Award, lasting until September, will enliven the Viva Italia festival, too, in addition to live performances by young artists in the Tatra Gallery.

In Zvolen, operas in the local 41st Castle Plays will be dedicated mostly to the works of Donizetti, Rossini and Verdi, and performed between June 24 and 28.
Contemporary Italian visual artists will present installations in Žilina within the Twenty in One, Twenty Regions in One Country, Twenty Artists in One Exhibition – the Exhibition of Contemporary Italian Art. The exhibition in the Považie Art Gallery in Žilina can be visited from July 17 until August 30.