The organizers of New Haven’s seventh International Festival of Arts and Ideas have announced the main features of this year’s program, with the promise that this summer will be more extravagant than ever.
The festival, which will take place from June 13th through the 30th, will present both international and local talent in a variety of dance, music and theater performances. It will also include talks and panel discussions based on this year’s theme — “U.S.A.: As Others See Us.”
Among the scheduled performances are a South African production of Bizet’s “Carmen,” the Royal Shakespeare Company’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and the Metropolitan Opera’s staging of Puccini’s “La Boheme.”
Since its creation in 1996, the fledgling festival has seen an enormous growth in both size and popularity. The total number of events has risen from 167 to nearly 400, and attendance has surged from 60,000 to 142,000.
Initially, the festival was envisioned as a means of showcasing New Haven’s cultural resources in order to redefine and improve the city’s image.
Frances “Bitsie” Clark, executive director of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, said organizers have three goals they hope to accomplish. She said the festival is intended as an engine for economic development, as well as a means of exposing New Haven residents and visitors to museums and artists. She added that the third goal is to develop a sense of cohesion among New Haven’s various communities.
Clark said the festival’s dimensions are still changing, as evidenced by the recent introduction of themes to the festival. The festival’s organizers stumbled onto a theme in 1999 when several of the events overlapped in their focus on war and conflict, and the theme “War and Peace” was devised after the fact, she said.
“I think the idea part of it is a part that is going to grow and become more refined,” Clark said. “It needs time to become mature.”
The festival boasts a wide range of sponsors, from corporate giants Bayer and Daimler Chrysler to local businesses like the Omni Hotel and the New Haven Savings Bank. But it is the Yale community that makes some of the most important contributions.
Michael Morand, the associate vice president for Yale’s office of New Haven and State Affairs, said the University is proud to serve as both a major sponsor and a venue for the event.
“Yale University works closely with our neighbors to build a strong New Haven, and a priority area is to maintain the unique vitality of downtown,” he wrote in an e-mail.
Morand said the festival has gone a long way toward establishing New Haven as the creative capital of Connecticut, and that in doing so it has helped support downtown retailers and restaurants. The Quinnipiac University economics department estimates total revenue earned in New Haven from increased tourism was $15.7 million last year alone.
But Clark said that as a resident of New Haven, she is able to appreciate the festival as more than simply a financial statistic.
“Aside from when the students arrive, it’s the most exciting two weeks that goes on in New Haven,” she said.
Yale History Professor Paul Kennedy, who participates regularly in the summer events, said New Haven should be proud of the festival.
“Nowhere else has the Royal Shakespeare Company four years in a row,” he said. “It’s a great boost to the image of the city of New Haven.”