The stage is set for the 13th edition of the Cartagena International Music Festival. If the inaugural concert in Bogotá’s Faenza-Teatro de la Paz last month was a prelude of what audiences can expect January 4 to 13, 2019, then it’s going to be a stellar series with plenty of stars, and star-gazing in the Old City.

Under the title “Celestial Harmony: Numbers, Sound, Music,” the festival is dedicated to the fascinating relationship between music and science – and by extension astronomy – that stretches back to the ancient notion of musica universalis, or “harmony of spheres.”

Many composers, from Mozart to Bartok, even embodied mathematical principles of proportion and symmetry in their work. Bartok was particularly inspired by the so-called Golden Mean, the proportion of about 1.618 that crops up in natural shapes and patterns. This mysterious ratio appears in several of Bartok’s compositions including his Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta.

Even though listeners may not decipher the Golden Mean in a piano sonata, the science of the infinite permeates across many timeless works, including one of the most prophetic ever composed – Gustav Holst’s The Planets. And planets seem to be everywhere for this festival, as the oil painting “Fly me to the Moon” from the series ORO (Gold) by artist Pedro Ruíz is the official poster.

While the festival is a window on the great composers and works interpreted by a slate of international chamber ensembles, quartets and soloists during nine days, attendees also have the chance to participate in lectures by musicologists and renown conductors. Among the leading names that have been invited is John Eliot Gardiner, founder and artistic director of the Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique.

As a regular guest of the world’s leading symphony orchestras, such as the London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Gardiner’s repertoire also includes an extensive catalog of award-winning recordings. An authority on the music of Bach, Gardiner’s first presentation in Cartagena is on January 9 in the colonial Santa Teresa chapel.

The Cartagena International Music Festival offers an extensive program that reflects both the classical and contemporary, covering four centuries of music, and performances of works by Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Holst, Bartok and Philip Glass, among others.

Included in the 2019 line-up is the Philharmonia Orchestra of London, considered one of the most prestigious and innovative in Europe. The acclaimed Cremona Quartet, or Quartetto di Cremona, will offer three concerts with their envigorating interpretation of Renaissance masterpieces.

Putting instruments to one side, on January 10 the male vocal quartet New York Polyphony will fill one of Cartagena’s most beautiful plazas with their vibrant, Grammy-Award winning voices, ranging from slow Gregorian chants to cutting-edge cadence. Praised by NPR for their “rich, natural sound that’s larger and more complex than the sum of its parts,” New York Polyphony is one of the foremost vocal chamber ensembles active today.

Another highlight is the addition of opera to the schedule with arias from Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte in the main square facing San Pedro Claver church. The appointed musical director is Benjamin Bayl, the Dutch Australian conductor of the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra. The soloists are Barbara Bargnesi (soprano), Elena Belfiore (mezzo-soprano), Gabriele Nani (baritone), Daniele Zanfardino (tenor), Julieth Lozano (soprano), and Roberto de Candia (baritone). The gala takes place January 12.

Salvi Foundation, the non-profit that organizes the event, has worked tirelessly to transform Cartagena every January into a destination for world-class musicians and a festival that welcomes some 20,000 visitors. As a result of its reputation for hosting an event The New York Times ranks as a “must do,” hotels get booked up early, which is why, if planning on heading to this historic port city make reservations ahead of time.

Tickets to the festival can be purchased through www.primerafila.com or Primera Fila ticket offices in Cine Colombia movie theaters across the country. For the complete schedule of this much anticipated edition visit: www.cartagenamusicfestival.com