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Line-up for this year's Norfolk & Norwich Festival

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If you had to select just one word to sum up the programme for this year’s Norfolk and Norwich Festival – in spaces and places all over the city between 7 and 22 May – that word might well be eclectic. There are major sequences of classical and contemporary music concerts, circus, dance, family shows, literary events and a brand-new celebration of the visual arts. What’s more, two of last year’s star attractions return.

The first of these is that wondrous piece of kitsch, the Spiegeltent. This will be parked in Chapelfield Gardens (the Festival Gardens for the duration) and house circus and music, dance of all kinds (including daytime tea-dances) and other light-hearted entertainment. The other is the opening late-evening free fireworks display at Earlham Park on 8 May. The French pyrotechnic company Ephémère combine this with the world première of Bird and Fire, using Stravinsky’s score for Fokine’s ballet The Firebird.

Preceding this is another free event on the Millennium Plain. The Dhol Foundation percussive group and the French troupe Les Vernisseurs with Happy Urban Chaos lead off the parade late in the afternoon of Saturday 7 May. Then we’re into the Festival itself in the evening of 8 May with Beethoven’s first and last symphonies performed by the English Chamber Orchestra and Choir under David Parry. The soloists for the choral symphony are Camilla Roberts, Yvonne Howard, Gwyn Hughes-Jones and Sion Goronwy.

Visiting instrumentalists include Leif Ove Andsnes, Christian and Tanya Tetzlaff, the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, Jordi Savali, Alina Ibragimova and Louis Lortie. Michael Nyman, David McAlmont, the {Antonio Forcione] Quartet, Camille O’Sullivan, the Sargasso trio, CocoRosie, John McLaughlin, John Cale, Zic Zahou (last seen and heard in Norwich at the 2007 festival), Trio WAH!, Arve Henriksen, Jan Bang and the Voice Project Choir in the première of festival-commission Recording Angel, James Hunter and Dan Jones are among the strands which make up the contemporary music programme.

Another highlight is Jerusalem on 15 May, the UK première of the Jordi Savall programme charting the city’s history through music. The Montreal-based circus company Les sept doigts de la main perform La Vie in the Spiegeltent from 7 to 11 and 13 to 17 May. This is a UK première with an adult theme. Circus Ronaldo are also in the Festival Gardens from 12 to 14 May with Circenses, while NoFit State Circus are in Eaton Park on 13 May with a free commissioned event, aptly called Parklife.  At the Theatre Royal,  Les Ballets C de B present Out of Context on 8 May, the Michael Clark Company are Come, Been and Gone on 10 and 11 May and Paco Pena’s flamenco dancers swirl into action on 13 May. A great deal of story-telling, sung as well as spoken, is also on offer with a special literature thread as well as a full children’s programme.

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