European Capital of Culture Year will be launched with wide-ranging celebrations from 17 to 19 January 2014. In addition to the openings of a number of exhibitions and the premiere of Wagner's opera Rienzi, the midpoint of the celebration will be a symbolic action by book lovers, transferring books, hand to hand along a human chain, from the old National Library of Latvia building to the newly built Gaismas pils (Castle of Light).
Where: various city locations
When: from 17 to 19 January 2014 (‘living book chain’ action – during the opening of the new National Library of Latvia building on 18 January)
Wagner's opera Rienzi
A multimedia performance of Richard Wagner's opera Rienzi at the Latvian National Opera, in cooperation with renowned Danish director and set designer Kirsten Delholm, will be one of the central events of the European Capital of Culture opening celebrations. Young composer Richard Wagner began composing Rienzi in Rīga, where he worked as the musical director of the Rīga City Theatre from 1837 to 1839.
To mark the European Capital of Culture Year, two new Latvian opera productions have been created – Šahs (Chess – dedicated to Mikhail Tal) by Kristaps Petersons and Valentīna by Arturs Maskats, dedicated to art critic and European figure Valentīna Freimane.
Where: Latvian National Opera
When: 17 January 2014 (premiere)
The Book 1514-2014
This exhibition will provide an insight into the-500-year history of the printed book. The most outstanding printed works from Europe's largest book repositories will be on display. Other exhibitions such as the famous mosaics of Ravenna (Italy) (July 2014) will also be awaiting visitors.
Where: new National Library of Latvia
When: 1 July to 31 December 2014
Born in Rīga
Rīga and Latvia are well-known places as far as the international music scene is concerned, being home to such outstanding musicians and opera singers as conductor Mariss Jansons, violinist Gidon Kremer, one of today's foremost cellists Mischa Maisky, opera singer Maija Kovaļevska, baritone Egils Siliņš, organist Iveta Apkalna and many others. A succession of these world-famous, Latvian-born musicians will present solo concerts, including a gala outdoor concert in the summer.
Where: various locations throughout Latvia
When: throughout 2014 (open-air gala concert at the Latvian National Opera on 6 July)
2014 marks 100 years since the start of the First World War. In January, the Latvian National Museum of Art will open an exhibition ‘1914’ recounting the First World War through the eyes of renowned European artists. The exhibition’s works will reflect historical accents and personal stories from the First World War, as well as representations of it by contemporary artists. Special emphasis will be placed on artists from the European countries founded immediately after the First World War.
Where: Latvian National Museum of Art Arsenāls Exhibition Hall
When: 17 January to 19 April 2014
Throughout the year, Rīga’s museums will be displaying the new Amber Road. Diverse exhibitions in various Rīga museums and galleries will reveal the multiple roles of Baltic amber in the region's culture, history, medicine and art. For example, from early in the year, the Latvian Museum of Natural History exhibition ‘From Amber to Amber Thread’ will display textile artists’ works produced from amber thread, as well as a multi-dimensional object made from amber materials. A permanent exhibition, to continue after 2014, for the first time will display the geology of Latvian amber. Other participants include the Pauls Stradiņš Medical Museum, Rīga Bourse, Putti gallery, Baltu rotas (Baltic jewellery) gallery and the Latvian Museum of History. At the same time, amber has symbolic significance as an emblem of cultural excellence – the programme will also include music and choir projects.
Where: various museums and galleries
When: all year round
How do Europeans traditionally celebrate the summer solstice? In June, everyone will be able to experience different traditional customs and enjoy one of the largest summer solstice celebrations in Europe with the people of Rīga. In Latvia, 23 and 24 June are official public holidays – Līgo (Midsummer’s Eve) and Jāņi day, although the traditional astronomical solstice is celebrated two days earlier. That is why the celebrations will already start on 21 June with a wide-ranging solstice concert of European nations in Mežaparks and also in Turaida one of Latvia’s most beautiful places. During the European Capital of Culture Year, the Turaida Museum Reserve, with its medieval castle tower entwined in legends, will be offering a special festive programme. Visitors will be able to weave floral crowns, prepare Jāņi cheese, light Jāņi bonfires and await the sunrise, singing and dancing to the accompaniment of Latvian folkloric ensembles.
Where: various outdoor events
When: from 21 to 24 June 2014
In the autumn, film lovers will be able to experience something previously unseen in Rīga – a full-length documentary film, Force Majeure, combining sequences by seven celebrated European documentary film makers based on social anthropologic studies of Rīga neighbourhoods and their residents.
Where: Splendid Palace Cinema
When: 3 September 2014 (premiere)
Currently, Rīga is seeing creative quarters popping up like mushrooms after the rain – each with its own unique charm, special events and originality. Throughout the year, the creative quarters will offer programmes revealing Rīga ‘s singular creative side and diversity.
Where: city creative quarters
When: all year round
World Choir Games
In terms of the number of participants, the 8th World Choir Games will be the European Capital of Culture Year's biggest event. In July, Rīga’s squares, streets and courtyards will resound with the voices of 20 000 singers from almost 90 countries.
Where: various Rīga locations
When: 9-19 July 2014
The Survival Kit contemporary art festival first came on the scene in 2009 as a response to the changes in Latvia arising from the economic crisis. This instigated a number of different initiatives and the development of several creative quarters. In September 2014, this art event, which has since become international, will offer art exhibitions in unusual places and during city proceedings, creative projects with community participation, practical seminars, film programmes, readings and discussions.
Where: various city locations, sister programme in Umeå
When: 4-21 September 2014
In 2014, northern Europe's largest light festival Staro Rīga will offer an international programme of light and multimedia installations. Rīgans already consider this several-day long light festival to be an integral part of Latvia’s independence celebrations. Buildings, squares, bridges and monuments turn into unique pieces of light art, supplemented by performance art and musical and theatrical elements. Thanks to cutting-edge lighting and video technologies, the city changes almost beyond recognition, shining forth in newly created colours. The installations whose lighting concept actively involves visitors have proved the most popular.
Where: various Rīga locations
When: 14-18 November 2014