Seat of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century and of Byzantine Italy until the 8th century, ancient Ravenna was a melting pot of cultures thanks to its strategic position on the Adriatic coast and its passage across the Mediterranean to both East and West. And so when Cristina Mazzavillani Muti founded the Ravenna Festival in 1990 she made it a premise that the programme should reflect the core of the city’s identity by presenting performing arts across all genres and cultures. Staged throughout the city, including in many of its UNESCO World Heritage monuments and basilicas, the Ravenna Festival managed to celebrate its 31th edition this summer by re-scheduling the complete five week festival which was attended by 15 000 guests in person and 45 000 viewers online from around the world.

This year the Festival draws inspiration from the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death in Ravenna and includes new commissions from composers, choreographers and playwrights. Among these are the premieres of three new symphonic pieces composed by Valentin Silvestrov, Tigran Mansurian, and Giovanni Sollima. The area surrounding Dante’s tomb will also play host to concerts and performances, including Vespers in the Basilica of S Francesco where the Poet’s funeral took place in 1321.

Riccardo Muti concludes the nation’s anniversary tributes to Dante with a special concert on 12 September at Ravenna’s Teatro Alighieri. The autumn programming also includes three premieres inspired by Dante’s Commedia: Metànoia by rebel ballet dancer, Sergei Polunin; Faust rapsodia – a stage production blending scenes from Goethe’s tragedy and Schumann’s secular oratorio; and actor Elio Germano’s performance of the last canto of Paradiso.