The ancient city of Antalya has been renowned for its feasts, celebrations and festivals for over 2500 years. Now, probably more notably known as a gorgeous beach resort city, Antalya is still a hive of cultural activity, a buzzing center of over a million people, and is proud to boast its own symphony orchestra, an opera and a ballet company. It plays host to many international events throughout the year, including cultural and art festivals, concerts and exhibitions.
Antalya’s first and longest running film festival is the International Antalya Film Festival, formerly known as, ‘The Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival,’ which has been running annually since 1963. In the 1960s, the city of Antalya sought to create a logo, and as such, the most important symbol of the region, the orange, or in Turkish, ‘portakal,’ was chosen, and later, for the festival, it was incorporated into a statuette of the goddess Venus, delicately cradling an orange picked from the orchards of Antalya. The orange not only gave the festival its name, but also became the symbol of the awards for the film festival. Today, it is one of the most prominent film festivals in the world, and Antalya recognized as the movie center of the country. The festival shows the best of Turkish and international cinema, bringing together directors, producers, industry professionals, celebrities, and names both new and legendary. Celebrities such as Kevin Spacey, Helen Mirren and Francis Ford Coppola have all been guests at the festival in the past. Although the festival underwent a name change, the award remains the same, and winners of each category are proud to receive the coveted, ‘Golden Orange’ statuette. The festival is held in late October/November.
Unequivocally, the most atmospheric, unique and spine-tingling venue to experience any performance of any festival is the historic “Aspendos Roman amphitheater”. Here, The Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival unites the colorful history and amazing acoustics of the two-thousand-year-old theatre with the natural beauty and power of opera and ballet. This festival commenced in 1994 on a national stage, acquired international status in 1998, and was accepted as a member of the European Festivals Association in 2003, taking its prestigious place among other festivals being held around the world. Both Turkish and international companies perform in the festival, and, whilst patrons can enjoy the classics (Madame Butterfly, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake feature regularly), and even American musical theater like, ‘Westside Story’, the program also consists of popular and experimental performances. The festival runs either in June or late August/September, depending on the year.
The Antalya State Symphony Orchestra delights fans every Friday evening during its October to May season. Each week sees a different conductor and soloist featured and, as well as including the great classics of late, the repertoire has been expanded with some new and unusual works. This has been a great addition, particularly for those who frequent the venue regularly, blissfully losing themselves in the magical sounds of this world-class orchestra.
The International piano festival is the main musical event of the region. Here one can experience world-famous pianists from all genres; from classical to jazz, Spanish Flamenco to Greek folk music. Turkey’s internationally acclaimed pianist, composer and conductor, Fazil Say, is the Music Director of the festival, which usually opens with sold-out performances of one of his orchestral compositions. The festival runs for six weeks from October/ November.
Antalya also plays host to the “Efes Jazz and Blues Festival”, which brings international stars to casual venues around the city. Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of more intimate venues, while enjoying some food and drinks with friends.
During the summer season, Antalya also sees an array of lively concerts, featuring some of the biggest national and international artists. And understandably so, as it is one of the most nightlife-oriented cities of Turkey. These concerts are at a variety of venues, from smaller intimate places where you can experience performances on a more personal level, to large open-air arenas where the atmosphere is electric with the enthusiasm of thousands of music lovers moving to the sounds of their favorite artist. And the big resorts of Antalya lure big name performers to their venues for the delight of their guests and non-guests alike.
So, no matter your taste in music or your preference for cultural events, you’re bound to find something in Antalya that can carry you away into a different realm for a few very pleasurable hours.