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World's best musicians descend on Switzerland

The St Gallen Open Air, devoted to rock music, kicked-off the festival season on Friday

(Keystone Archive)

The summer open-air and music festival season got well and truly underway this weekend. Tens of thousands of people will be attending concerts, ranging from rock to opera, with some of the biggest names in the music business visiting Switzerland.

The staging of major events, particularly open-air concerts, is precarious with organisers facing major losses if the weather plays foul or if customers fail to turn up in expected numbers.

In the past, several rock festivals, both big and small, have faced financial loss, even ruin. Officials will be hoping for a summer of success, both artistically and financially.

One of Switzerland's oldest festivals, the St Gallen Open Air, devoted to rock music, which started on Friday, was the first major concert to kick off the season. The three-day event was dominated mainly by Swiss bands.

Over 26,000 visitors flocked to the main concert on Saturday, attracted to St Gallen by the heady mix of hot weather and live music.

The month of July will see some of the biggest and best-known music stars on Swiss soil.

The biggest festival, the Nyon Paleo(July 24-29), is a multicultural bonanza which regularly attracts tens of thousands of visitors to the six-day event close to the shores of Lake Geneva. Ash, Ben Harper, John Hammond, Vanessa Paradis and Manu Chao are among the acts appearing.

The hottest international rock and pop stars seem to prefer indoor events in Switzerland. The Montreux Jazz festival(July 6-21), which has long shed its purely "jazz" image, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year with some musical evergreens such as B.B.King, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Sting and Van Morrison.

Blues fans are also being treated at the Blue Balls festival in Lucerne(July 20-28) to another appearance by B.B King, who is being joined by Maceo Parker and Candy Dulfer, Popa Chubby and a series of other blues artists.

The summer season is by no means confined to the pop and rock. There is a wide range of classical music, opera and brass band concerts, ranging greatly in size and style.

One of the best-known opera festivals is taking place at Avenches(July 5-20) where music lovers watch performances in the well-preserved remains of a Roman amphitheatre. The 100th anniversary of Verdi's death is being marked with performances of "Rigoletto".

Classical music lovers have a wide-ranging choice of programmes and locations, but one name is writ larger than others - Lucerne.

The Lucerne Festival(September 5-15) is the largest classical music event in Switzterland. Such are the attractions this year, a performance by violin virtuoso Ann-Sophie Mutter, the conducting of Vladimir Ashkenazy and a performance by the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra, that many concerts are already sold out.

Two other classical music festivals in glorious locations attract wide followings. The Menuhin Festival in Gstaad(July 20-September 1) and the Verbier
Festival(July 20-August 1) are internationally renowned for their concerts.

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