On Saturday evening, the chords of the XXIV Thomas Mann Festival were solemnly sounded at the Lutheran Church in Nida. The famous Lithuanian conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla made her debut at the festival and impressed the audience with genuineness and sincerity of her interpretations. Attracting many people already on the first evening of the festival, the concert was a success. After all, the efforts of the organisers who did not halt the preparations for the festival due to quarantine, but rather installed additional precautionary measures were not in vain.

There were many people sitting in the audience, everyone’s face covered with a protective mask, as these were attentively distributed by the organizers. Despite this sign of the present times, the mood of communion, cherished at the festival year after year, has not gone missing. In his opening speech the patron of the event President Valdas Adamkus thanked all the people of art, music, and literature who contributed to this exceptional cultural forum and who looked for inspiration in the eternal values of humanism. According to dr. Lina Motuzienė, the director of the Thomas Mann Cultural Center who organise the festival, the long-standing tradition of the event would not have been possible without the support of many like-minded people who worked consistently throughout the year, namely, members of the Curratorium of this International Festival, the team of organisers, as well as volunteers.

The starting theme for the opening night’s musical programme – humanistic values that are shared by everyone – was specifically chosen by the opening night’s guest, conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla. By using broad creative touches, she combined the works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Lithuanian folk music, compositions of the twentieth-century composers Mieczysław Weinberg and Eugene Ysaye, a pinch of Arabic lyrics and Eric Whitacre’s “Five Jewish Love Songs”, along with inserts by contemporary composers Ola Gjeilas and Gintarė Bauerytė, who personally participated in the concert.

The concert had a special aura of family and trust. The world famous conductor, who is currently expecting her second child, appeared on an improvised church stage together with the chamber choir Aidija led by her father Romualdas Gražinis where piano accompaniment is played by her mother, pianist Sigutė Gražinienė. Furthermore, the vocal pieces of the programme were complemented by solo violin inserts, which were performed by conductor’s life partner Austrian violinist Frank Stadler.

After such emotional and cosy welcome on the opening night, the festival in Nida will continue until the next Sunday. The musical programme includes performances by the Kaunas String Quartet, Piano Trio Kaskados, other ensembles and soloists. In the word programme, in addition to discussion on current topics and presentations of new books, we continue reading from Thomas Mann’s works with coffee, which by now has turned into a pleasant morning tradition of the festival. Screenings of films by Lithuanian and foreign film-makers will take place during late evening sessions.

The organisers of the unique festival will invite the community of Nida and guests to meet in different places of the resort: the writer Thomas Mann Memorial Museum, Nida Lutheran Church, Nida Art Colony of Vilnius Academy of Arts, Curonian Spit History Museum, and Juodkrantė Art Gallery.

Activities of the Thomas Mann Cultural Centre are supported by the Lithuanian Council for Culture, Municipality of Neringa and the Goethe Institute in Vilnius.