This blog post was updated on the 3rd September 2019
An autumn holiday on Gozo has many attractions. The island's hot summer eases gently into a period of wonderfully warm and sunny weather and there are fewer tourists. With average maximum temperatures in September, October and November of 24°C, 21°C, and 17°C respectively, it's still possible to enjoy swimming in the sea and dining al fresco at the island's many restaurants.
And, as an added bonus, autumn on Gozo sees the island's cultural life ramping up a gear. As summer draws to a close, where else but on Gozo can you experience festivals celebrating everything from opera to flying kites?
In September the last festas of the season take place in Għajnsielem, Xaghra and Victoria. There’s also the Qala International Folk Festival. This is followed by a series of classical music festivals including two major opera productions during October, as part of the internationally renowned Festival Mediterranea which runs to the end of November.
Qala International Folk Festival, Gozo. Picture credit: www.visitgozo.com
Festival Mediterranea has been running since 2002 and is organised by Teatru Astra in Gozo's capital, Victoria. The festival attracts an international audience of music lovers who are treated to a wide range of classical and symphonic music, plus vocal recitals, and opera.
The cultural highlight of the year on Gozo is undoubtedly the two spectacular operas performed during October at Teatru Astra and Gozo's other main theatre – the Aurora Opera House.
Opera on Gozo: a competitive affair
Festival Mediterranea, Gozo. Picture credit: www.visitgozo.com
For a small island, Gozo takes its opera very seriously and the rivalry between the Astra and Aurora has generated the passion necessary to create two top-class opera productions every year.
The story begins back in the 1800s in Gozo's capital Victoria and involves the two main churches in the town (there are 20 in all) – St George's Basilica and St Mary's Cathedral. In 1863, the Leone marching band was formed by the cathedral to perform on feast days. In response, St George's formed their own marching band – the Stella.
Over the years, the rivalry continued. The cathedral built a dance hall for the Leone marching band to perform in. St George's built an even bigger dance hall, the Astra. The cathedral responded by taking over a baroque townhouse in the capital, adding new facilities such as a bar and rehearsal rooms, and calling this the Aurora. Not surprisingly, St George's then added new facilities to the Astra.
The next phase of the competition involved the cathedral knocking through the back wall of the Aurora to build a full 1,500-seater opera house. The first performance here was Puccini's Madama Butterfly in 1976. Supporters of St George's then restructured the Astra, adding a 1,200-seater opera house, in which the first opera performed was Verdi's Rigoletto in 1978.
Every year the operas put on by the Astra and Aurora are enjoyed by full houses. This is no mean feat when you consider Gozo's small population of around 30,000. The Maltese government provides the orchestras for both opera houses and funds are raised to pay for international opera singers. Everything else is organised and achieved by hundreds of local people (loyal to their rival parishes) who work for nothing building scenery, making costumes, handling the front-of-house duties, being extras, and even singing in the chorus.
But Gozo doesn't just offer classical and operatic music experiences in autumn, there are plenty of other musical and cultural experiences on offer. Here is a taste of just some of the things to do in autumn on Gozo:
September - November 2019
Festival of lights, Gozo. Photo credit: www.visitgozo.com
Sunday 1 September: Festa - Our Lady of Loretto, Għajnsielem.
Sunday 8 September: Festa - Our Lady of Victories, Xagħra.
Monday 9 September: Stage and Proms By The Sea. A feast for the ears and eyes, Stage and Proms By The Sea is a spectacular concert of classical and popular music performed by the Gozo Youth Wind band on a floating pontoon on the sea.
Location: Mgarr Harbour.
Friday 13 September 8.30pm: Jazz Do Festival.
Location: Mgarr Harbour.
Saturday 14 September 7.30pm : Summer Carnival
Location: Mgarr Harbour.
Sunday 15 September: Festa - Our Lady of Graces, Victoria.
Friday 20 – Sunday 22 September: Qala International Folk Festival at Qala. For a weekend of traditional folk dance, music, culture and food combined with high tech light shows, head to Qala for this ever-popular festival.
Saturday 21 September 8pm: Independence Day Concert by the Malta Armed Forces Band.
Location: Independence Square, Victoria.
Saturday 21 September 7pm: Traditions, Wine, Olive Oil and Honey
This event features live music with roast pig, wine and honey tasting and beehive and wine making displays.
Location: Pjazza Salvatur, Ghasri
Friday 27 September – Friday 1 November: MUSIC+. MUSIC+ returns for a second year following a successful inaugural event in 2018. This festival includes recitals by international musicians, workshops for children, master classes, and many talks about music. All events are free.
Saturday 12 October: La Boheme, opera by Giacomo Puccini.
Location: Aurora Theatre, Victoria
Sunday 13 October 8.30pm: Fjakkolata - a Festival of Lights. This magical festival has been running for 30 years to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. The slopes of the Ghar Ilma Hill are illuminated by hundreds of flickering candles, lanterns and flaming torches, and in the village itself you can enjoy traditional local food, dance and folk music.
Location: Santa Luċija.
Friday 18 October 8.00pm: Symphony of Lights musical concert.
Location: Santa Luċija and Kerċem.
Friday 18 – Sunday 20 October: Gozo International Kite Festival. Back for a second year, this Kite and Wind Festival is fun for all the family. On three full days you can watch experts as well as have a go at flying a kite yourself.
Locations: San Dimitri Limits of Gharb and Gozo Sports Complex, Victoria
Saturday 19 October – Saturday 30 November: Festival Mediterranea.
Thursday 24 & Saturday 26 October: Il Trovatore, Opera by Guiseppi Verdi.
Location: Astra Theatre, Victoria
Thursday 31 October: Bo Peep, children’s opera. This one act opera was composed in 1968 especially for children by Gozitan composer Joseph Vela, who died in 2018. It features a small music ensemble, a children’s choir and four young soloists.
Location: Giovanni Theatre, Xewkija
Saturday 2 November: Not Just The Wall, an orchestral tribute to the music of Pink Floyd.
Location: Aurora Theatre, Victoria.
Saturday 2 & Sunday 3 November: Band concert and family activities
Ask us for help
Baron Holiday Homes is happy to organise car hire, tours of Gozo, and special activities for our guests. Just get in touch and we’ll tell you all you need to know about walks near to your rental property, special events in villages nearby, and other local information.
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