The 21st May Festival in Guadalajara will showcase a talented Ukrainian pianist who is slowly getting his life back together after suffering a major personal tragedy two years ago.
Vadym Kholodenko moved to Dallas, Texas with his family after his career started to take off in the wake of winning the gold medal at the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. His notoriety grew while performing with the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and at the Portland Piano International, among others.
But the pianist’s life came crashing down when his two daughters, Nika, 5, and Michaela, 1, were killed in their Benbrook home in March 2016.
By that time Kholodenko had become estranged from his wife Sofya Tsygankova and was living at another address.
Kholodenko discovered the bodies of his children when he came to take them to school.
Police subsequently charged Tsygankova with the murders of her children. She was initially declared incompetent to stand trial and treated in a state mental health facility. That ruling was subsequently overturned and last June was charged with capital murder and deemed fit to stand trial. Her lawyers have said she will plead not guilty and present an insanity defense .
Meanwhile, Kholodenko has returned to performing, something he says “is part of me” and that he “doesn’t want to hide.”
Guadalajara concertgoers will get to see this talented artist in a solo recital, Wednesday, May 23 at the Teatro Degollado, the main venue of the Festival de Mayo. Kholodenko will also be the guest soloist at the festival’s closing event on Friday, May 25, a concert by the Jalisco Philharmonic conducted by Marco Parisotto, with works by Henri Dutillex, Frederic Chopin and Maurice Ravel.
The festival has no single invited country this year, but artists from France, Germany, Poland and the Canadian province of Quebec are confirmed.
The festival opens on May 4 and 6 with performances by the Marie Chouinard Dance Company of Quebec of “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” based on Hieronymus Bosch’s famous triptych. In 2016, Canadian choreographer Chouinard was invited by the Hieronymus Bosch 500 Foundation to create the piece to mark the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death.
Other shows at the Degollado include a piece by Quebec contemporary dance outfit Les 7 Doigts de la Main, Gabacho Maroc (world music from France), French classical piano duo Katia and Marielle Labeque and the “Amadeus” Chamber Orchestra of Polish Radio.
In addition, the Conjunto de Artes Escénicas hosts soprano Leticia de Altamirano and violinist Dana Zemtsov interpreting French music on May 20.
While tickets for the Degollado and Conjunto shows range from 70-500 pesos, the festival offers plenty of free events.
The Plaza Liberación (facing the Degollado) will present a feast of electronic music courtesy of Mexican and foreign invitees Schlachthofbronx, Dubwiser, Beat Market and Pneumus.
Performers will also be roaming the city’s streets showcasing the circus arts. Among these artists are El Circo de Jalisco, Circo Dragón, Cabaret Capricho, Fuoco Di Strada, Claunódromo, Bravísimo and Cirko Alebrije.
Local churches will also host performances: the Zapopan Municipal Choir (May 7), the Universidad Panamericana Choir (May 8), the Orquesta de Zapopan (May 9), Faustino Díaz on trombone, Joao Vilao on trumpet and Timothy Ruff Welch on piano (May 21) and Bastien Baument on euphonium, Branimir León on trombone and Timothy Ruff Welch on piano (May 22).
The festival will also host a series of master classes at various venues.
The exhibit “El muro de los rapaces” featuring the work of noted Quebec artist René Derouin will be up at the Ex Convento del Carmen throughout the festival.
Last year’s Festival Cultural de Mayo attracted 45,000 spectators. This year, there are 42 programmed activities, 28 of which are free of charge.
The festival is financed by the Secretaría de Cultura de Jalisco (5.5 million pesos) and the municipality of Guadalajara (2 million pesos).
For further information and concert times, see festivaldemayo.org, as well as upcoming editions of this newspaper.