Istanbul spotlights art and culture

ABOVE: Ortakoy mosque on the shore of Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo: iStock)

As a city at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, the complexity and beauty of Istanbul is simply incredible. In the last two years travel has been impossible, but things are beginning to open up and Turkey is shifting to promote Istanbul as a global centre of culture—as it rightfully deserves.

With dozens of landmarks in the city from the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods visitors are surrounded by history and beauty is everywhere. To add to this idyllic setting, Istanbul's new cultural centre, known as Atatürk Kültür Merkezi (or AKM in short), reopened its doors to art lovers on October 29, 2021—the 98th anniversary of Turkish Republic Day.

The Beyoglu Culture Route Festival, established by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey, is one of the largest arts and culture projects in Turkey’s history. The AKM’s reopening launched the massive festival. Moving forward, the festival will be an annual occurrence that showcases the work of over 1000 artists at 60 different locations across the city, with main events centred in Beyoglu, a district on the European side of the Bosphorus Strait that divides the city. 

Completely reconstructed over the last two-and-a-half years by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism at the cost of 2-billion Turkish Liras ($256 million Canadian), the AKM will be welcoming visitors throughout the year to the stunning 49,000-square-metre 2,040-seat opera house. The centre also features a 16,300-square metre, 802-seat theatre hall, a 410-square-metre art gallery and a multipurpose hall.

ABOVE: The rebuilt Atatürk Kültür Merkezi (AKM) opened its doors on October 31, 2021 with the innnaugral preformace of the 2021 Beyoglu Culture Route Festival. RIGHT: The AKM’s new 2,040-seat opera house.

During the planning phase numerous facilities worldwide with similar functions were evalutated and the leading figures in Turkey’s cultural spheres were consulted in order to construct the best facility while ensuring that it has a Turkish feel and appearance. The new Atatürk Cultural Centre is home to the Presidential Classical Turkish Music Choir, the Istanbul State Opera and Ballet, the Istanbul State Theatre, the Istanbul Symphony Orchestra and the Istanbul State Turkish Music Ensemble.

To celebrate the reopening, at the request of Turkish President Erdogan, the "Sinan Opera" held its world premiere at the AKM. Staged by the Istanbul State Opera and Ballet, the opera, an original work by a Turkish composer, was brought to the stage by the renowned Italian director Vincenzo Grisostomi Travaglini. The epic performance was directed by the conductor Gürer Aykal. The opera was composed by the contemporary Turkish classical music composer Prof. Hasan Uçarsu, and the libretto was written by Dr. Bertan Rona, based on the script of the same name by Halit Refig.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra, considered one of the finest symphony orchestras in the world, performed a dedicated repertoire on the new AKM stage on October 31. "Haydar Haydar," composed by veteran Turkish composer Özkan Manav for the orchestra, was also included in the program. It was the first time that the London Philharmonic Orchestra performed the work of a Turkish composer. The soloist of the evening, led by Italian-born British conductor Robin Ticciati, was pianist Francesco Piemontesi, considered one of the finest living interpreters of Mozart's music.

With the new Istanbul Aiport acting as a global connections hub, Istanbul is now more than ever were East meets the West. The city of ancient civilisations is also a global cultural centre for the performing arts. 

If you are connecting through the Istanbul, stop for a day or more and take it all in. Turkey is open with more reasons to visit than ever.

To find out about citywide events during the festival, click here http://