For the past five years, the Latvian capital has been home to “Staro Riga,” a festival of lights akin to those held in European cities like Berlin, Ghent and Lyon. This year, the festival coincided with the city’s reign as the European Capital of Culture, and from what I’ve gathered, Riga pulled out all the stops. Videos created by internationally-acclaimed artists danced across buildings while light installations were set up in the city parks and fountains. Even though it was freezing outside, we took to the streets along with seemingly half of Latvia to enjoy Riga in a whole new way.
My favorite display was the “Circus of Light” illuminating the facade of the Astor Hotel on the edge of Old Riga. The show opened with a drawing of red-top curtains and concluded with fireworks and a disappearing white rabbit. In between, a bevy of talented animals performed acrobatic stunts while the audience – real and holographic – cheered them on.
Another crowd-pleaser was the “United Fish” video, in which a school of musical fish, which had to protect its underwater world from attacking stingrays, swam across the Riga Congress Center. Someone told me this was meant to be an allegory for Baltic strength against regional aggression. Whatever it was, it was mesmerizing!
Several of the light displays were patriotic in nature, as the final night of Staro Riga fell on Latvia’s Independence Day, and the colors of the country’s flag stood out against the dark winter sky.
The most elaborate display was in Dome Square in the heart of Old Riga and took viewers on a “Journey into a World of Colorful Fairy Tales.” The video, projected across three buildings at once, was inspired by a popular Latvian children’s book. The story may have been unknown to us, but it was impressive to watch all the same.
While we didn’t make it to all of the festival’s light installations, here’s a look at the some of the others we enjoyed:
Which light festivals around the world have you attended?