One year after UNESCO added Bogotá to an elite list of creative world metros, becoming the organization’s fifth City of Music, Colombia’s capital hosts the first biennial Bogotá International Music Festival. This year’s festival, which carries the theme “Bogotá is Beethoven” and takes place March 27-30, involves an impressive 56 concerts from more than 420 artists covering a significant portion of the German Classical and Romantic composer’s works.

Each of the concerts will take place in 12 different venues located throughout the city, including several in middle and lower-class neighborhoods, in an effort to ensure that all Bogotanos have access to the festival. Further emphasizing the event’s democratic nature, ticket prices average just $10,000 pesos and 13 of the concerts will be free. For those still unable to attend in person, festival highlights will be broadcast on CityTV.

The Music Festival was conceived as a counterpart to Bogotá’s world-famous Ibero-American Theater Festival, a similarly biennial event that attracts the planet’s foremost actors, directors and works of theater. Each festival will be held on alternating years.

“Being named a City of Music by UNESCO was a recognition of the richness and diversity Bogotá has to offer, and we hope to further increase interest in the city,” said director of the Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo and one of the festival’s masterminds, Ramiro Osorio.

Ramiro Osorio, director Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo

Director of the Teatro Mayor and co-founder of the Ibero-American Theater Festival, Ramiro Osorio helped spearhead the new Music Festival.

Osorio and festival organizers chose Beethoven for his universality, wanting to offer music enthusiasts an in-depth look at a profoundly innovative composer while simultaneously attracting a new audience with approachable and well-known works. A different composer, genre or artist will be featured in each version of the Festival.

Among the noted guests this year are Russian violinist Viktoria Mullova, pianist Boris Bezerovsky, the Simón Bolívar Quartet from Venezuela and vocal soloists Nohora Amsellen, Alison Cook, Martin Muehle and Jukka Rasilainen, who will perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony along with the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra. Colombian invitees include the Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra of Colombia, and the Choir of the Opera of Colombia, among many others.

Perhaps the most interesting take on the featured composer’s formidable oeuvre, three Colombian artists – jazz musician Antonio Arnedo and Latin-fusion groups Mojarra Eléctrica and Puerto Candelaria – will debut decidedly modern interpretations (with an unmistakable South American flair) of Beethoven’s works during the Festival’s Noche en Blanco, an all-night celebration involving food, cocktails and plenty of concerts.

Mojarra Electrica

Performing in la Noche en Blanco, Colombian group Mojarra Eléctrica will mash-up Beethoven with Colombian rhythms and sounds.

Noche en Blanco provides another opportunity to turn the focus to local talent and creativity. “Bogotá has a lot to offer culturally. It’s a synthesis of the country and the level of creation and expression throughout all of the arts is incredible,” noted Osorio. “It’s a creative capital.”

The Music Festival joins an already impressive line-up of arts festivals in Bogotá ranging from the Theater Festival to Rock al Parque, one of Latin America’s most important outdoor rock events. The city’s internationally renowned Literary Fair, Summer Festival and up-and-coming Festival Centro also highlight a thriving creative culture.

Taking place during Semana Santa (Holy Week), one of Colombia’s busiest travel periods, the festival hopes to attract national and international tourists, even though Bogotá is not typically considered a popular destination during national holidays. However, for those foreigners visiting the city who might need to brush up on their Spanish, the International Music Festival offers a perfect cultural experience. “Everyone should feel welcome,” said Osorio. “The language of music is universal.”


For more information, including a schedule of concerts: