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European Capital of Culture Year Encompassing a Quarter of Estonia Opens with a Grand Ceremony in Tartu

The spectacular "All Becomes One!" opening ceremony will take place in the centre of Tartu on 26 January. Prominent Estonian performers, actors, and dancers will take the stage at the inaugural event, signalling the start of the cultural programme that will run through 2024. Playwright Eero Epner and director Taavi Tõnisson are the creative forces behind the production.

Tartu Town Hall Square in Winter.
07. Dec

The opening ceremony will take place on the banks of the river Emajõgi, situated between the famous Tartu landmarks, Rahu sild (Peace bridge) and Kaarsild (Arch bridge). Furthermore, the largest river barge traversing Estonian inland waters, the 35-meter-long Koit, serves as a stage.

“With their opening ceremonies, the European Capitals of Culture in a way imitate the Olympic Games. The performance unfolding on the banks of the winter Emajõe is a large-scale spectacular concert,” said Tartu 2024 Artistic Director Kati Torp.

The opening ceremony will feature music composed by well-known Estonian musicians. Trad.Attack! and Sander Mölder perform both new pieces and well-known tunes. Liina Sumera composes the cinematic musical palette for the opening ceremony, and conductor Andres Kaljuste’s Eller symphony is instrumental in establishing the soundscapes.

“There are many new things to discover and plenty of surprises for viewers of all ages in this eye catching show,” the director Taavi Tõnisson said, “the performance reflects the uniqueness hidden in Tartu and Southern Estonia and it highlights our curiosity and openness towards Europe.”

The grand opening day on 26 January kicks off in Club Illusion with a Children’s Disco for kindergarten groups. DJ Maido Möls provides the music while the Dance Camp dancers Britt Kõrsmaa, Märt Agu, and Oliver Soomets, demonstrate the moves.

A Warm-up Party in the Tartu Town Hall Square sets the pre-ceremony mood with electronic music. Following the grand opening performance, everyone is welcome to join a street procession that ends at the Estonian National Museum with an outdoor rave. Emily Makis (UK) will perform and DJ-sets by Heidy Purga, the Estonian Minister of Culture, Sound in Noise (Eero Muiste), and OLIVAR (Rene Oliver Muiste) will keep the party going into the early hours of the next day.

That evening, the Estonian National Museum’s halls will be alive with music, as guests can enjoy the last night of the “Right Body, Wrong Body?” exhibition and get a first glimpse of the newest exhibition “Who Claims the Night?”.

Preceding and succeeding Tartu’s official opening as the European Capital of Culture are the festivities in Southern Estonia: Valga (05.01), Viljandi (12.01), Võru (19.01), and Põlva (27.01). Together with well-known local performers Stefan, Uku Suviste, Karmen Rõivassepp, and Meelika Hainsoo, the Southern Estonian reggae band Angus will play at the regional ceremonies.