The Montreux Jazz Festival plans to return in July after being cancelled last year due to COVID-19, organisers said on Wednesday, and it will feature a new star attraction – a stage built on stilts surrounded by the water of Lake Geneva.
While COVID-19 is putting paid to bigger festivals, including Britain’s Glastonbury, for the second year running, Montreux festival director Mathieu Jaton is determined to put on a show, and is tailoring his venues accordingly.
“Our main goal is really after like 18 months of no music, just to give hope to people and to the artists that we could do something,” he told Reuters.
“If there is a slight window to make it happen, we’re going to make it happen… We haven’t done something unrealistic.”
One of Europe’s most prestigious summer music gatherings, it was immortalised in Deep Purple’s hit “Smoke on the Water”, written after the band witnessed a fire that engulfed the town’s casino during a festival concert there in 1971.
British singer-songwriter Elton John performed at the most recent edition in June 2019 as part of his farewell tour, and the festival has also hosted concerts by the likes of Miles Davis, Nina Simone, and Prince.
Jaton said he was “quite confident” that progress in vaccination programmes would enable some U.S. and European artists to appear at this year’s 55th edition, though pandemic-related restrictions mean the format will be smaller than in previous years.
Part of that downsizing for the July 2-17 event, for which the line-up is to be announced in late May, is the Lake Geneva stage. It will offer an onshore audience limited to 600 fans a stunning view of the Swiss Alps as a backdrop to concerts.
“We thought that getting smaller could be a big opportunity to create something very exceptional,” Jaton said.
With arrangements for audiences to include tracing and to take into account the prevailing state of the epidemic, the festival will use three other stages for audiences of 300 each set up in the gardens and rooms of a Belle Epoque hotel.
The Stravinski Auditorium, an indoor venue famed for its acoustics, will not be used.