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Review: Umbria Jazz Festival 2012

Perugia Parties On

Sting, Umbria Jazz Festival 2012
Fabrizio Bosso (trumpet), Ryan Truesdell (conducting), Umbria Jazz Festival, 2012
Sonny Rollins, Umbria Jazz Festival 2012
Francesco Cafiso, Umbria Jazz Festival 2012

Umbria Jazz Festival, now in its 39th year, is less vast than it once was. The current condition of the global economy has required many jazz festivals to downsize, especially in Europe. The Umbria festival included 180 concerts this year, compared to 260 in 2011. (In its heyday, the number was closer to 400.) Ticket sales were just under €1 million in 2012. Last year’s figure was €1.2 million.

But Umbria is still big enough to completely take over the centro storico of Perugia, one of Italy’s most beautiful hill towns. There are 10 days of free outdoor concerts and street parades, 14 hours a day. The big names play every night in Arena Santa Giuliana, a sports stadium just down the hill from the old town. There is a performance “’round midnight” every night in the 18th century Teatro Morlacchi, with its five tiers of opera boxes. After the last encore in the Morlacchi around 2 a.m., the main town square, Piazza IV Novembre, is still crowded with revelers dancing to the music of street musicians. What makes Umbria special is the atmosphere. It is a large jazz festival within a non-stop street party in a small, enclosed space. A gorgeous small enclosed space.

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