The Banchetto Musicale early music festival was launched in the autumn of 1989. Since then, it has been held every year except 1991, when Lithuania was suffering an economic and political blockade. In 2009, when Vilnius was the European Capital of Culture, the festival’s organizers invited audiences to the “Baroque dialogues” cycle of events, which ran for the entire year. The festival was directed by Jūratė Mikiškaitė-Vičienė for 13 years, the founder and leader of the Banchetto Musicale ensemble of Renaissance music and dance, while Darius Stabinskas took over as artistic director in 2003.
Until recently, the Banchetto Musicale festival was the only one of its kind in Lithuania devoted to period performance. The festival’s educational mission of acquainting the Lithuanian audience with compositions that have never been performed in Lithuania before is critically important. Thanks to Lithuanian National Radio and Television, the entire country’s music lovers can enjoy the experience of watching and listening to many of the festival’s concerts.
Alongside the regular participants of the festival, the Lithuanians Darius Stabinskas (viola da gamba), Elena Čičinskaitė (lute), the singers Edita Bagdonaitė and Nora Petročenko, the Brevis Choir and Consort, the Banchetto Musicale and Festa Cortese early music and dance ensembles, many internationally acclaimed performers have appeared at the festival, including Trio Mediaeval, Barokkanerne, Hans Olav Gorset (recorder) and Knut Johanesen (harpsichord) from Norway; the Kvinterna ensemble from the Czech Republic; Cantus Cölln, Ensemble 1700, Amarcord and United Continuo Ensemble from Germany; the Capella de ministrers, Alia Mvsica, Tasto solo ensembles from Spain; Amorroma, Traces and Zefiro Torna ensembles from Belgium; Eva Legene (recorder) and the Alba trio from Denmark; the cornett virtuoso William Dongois and Le Concert Brisé, Café Zimmermann and Ensemble Organum from France; the Drevnerussky Raspev choir from Russia; the Hortus Musicus, Tallinn Baroque, and Rondellus ensembles from Estonia; the ensembles Aurora, Accordone, Tetraktys and Ensemble Vocale Veneto, Paolo Pandolfo (viola da gamba), Edoardo Bellotti (organ) and Lavinia Bertotti (soprano) from Italy; Ensemble Unicorn and the Paul Hoffheimer Consort from Austria; the Ludus ensemble from Latvia; the Romeo & Juliet Choir, the Esk ensemble and the Laude Novella duo from Sweden; ensemble Elysium from Finland; the Europe Union Baroque Orchestra, I Fagiolini, The City Waites, Sara Stowe (soprano), Matthew Spring (lute, viola da gamba), Stuart McCoy (lute, vihuela), Jacob Heringman (lute) and the Baroque and Renaissance dance experts Barbara Segal and Mary Collins from Great Britain.
Devoted to the medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music, dance and theatre, Banchetto Musicale has marked the anniversaries of famous composers and has put on a number of stage productions, such as a concert performance of Monteverdi’s opera Orfeo, which featured the famous British countertenor Nigel Rogers in the title role (1993); a 1620 Neapolitan celebration Festa a ballo, which was performed by Hortus Musicus and the dancers of the Banchetto Musicale ensemble also in Estonia and Finland (1993); a dramatised banquet “A Fifteenth-Century Feast”, staged by the Banchetto Musicale ensemble and the choreographer Lieven Baert from Belgium (1994); the Lithuanian premiere of Biber’s Requiem (1994); Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (1995) and a ballet to Telemann’s Water Music (1999), both directed by the British choreographer and costume designer Jane Gingell; a production entitled “Festa Veneziana” in the Italian commedia dell’arte style (2000); a dramatised programme “Viva España” of Spanish Renaissance music (2002), prepared with the help of Dirkjan Horringa from Holland; the Euroradio concerts from the Discoveries series “From the Braunsberg Organ Tablature” (2004), “Marco Scacchi: A pupil and a master” (2007), “Prince wladislaw's trip to Rome” and “A music as a catcher of souls” (2011); a production of the madrigal comedy L’Amfiparnaso by Orazio Vecchi (2007) and two madrigal operas Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda and Ballo delle ingrate (2008), both staged in the Lėlė Puppet Theatre.
The festival has also arranged a number of masterclasses, by Eva Legene, Ketils Haugzand, Nigel Rogers, Hans Olav Gorset, Edoardo Bellotti, Claudine Ansermet, Alexander Puliaev, Ulrike Heider, Rafaelis Palacios, Stefano Rossi and Olga Pasichnyk.