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Sopot offers a rich calendar of artistic and cultural events, which contribute to the specific nature of the town. Undoubtedly, since 1961, the song festival constitutes the biggest the attraction of the town. At the end of August, the whole town is focused on the event. This very popular music festival takes place in the Forest Opera. It is a beautiful amphitheatre with a capacity of 4,500 people, and its location, among forested hills, creates great acoustics. Each year, hundreds of people come to the town to listen to the stars performing on a natural stage in Sopot. During the festival, different types and styles of music are presented. Enthusiasts of theatre and painting may attend events on the Chamber stage of the Wybrzeze Theatre, located in a house near the beach.
Also, the beach alternative theatres present their art. Numerous exhibitions are organized by galleries. People can admire paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photography and many other artistic works. Since 1996, Sopot has been trying to bring back the tradition of jazz festivals from the 1950s, when the town was the cradle of Polish jazz. The festival is one of the oldest song events in Europe. In the unique scenery of the Forest Opera, representatives of various styles and genres of song and pop music come together. Over these thirty-seven years the name of the festival, its formula, and its organizers have changed a number of times.
In the 1960s, and at the beginning of the 70s, the festival was a typical song contest organised by the Ministry of Culture and Art and the Polish Artistic Agency "Pagart". Among its participants were well-known and popular performers like Karel Gott (former Czechoslovakia), Frida Boccara (Monaco), Henri Dés (Switzerland), Isabelle Aubret (France), Salomé (Spain) and many others. In the middle of the 70s, these same organizers, together with the Committee For Radio and Television, organised the Intervision Festival in Sopot, regarded as the most prestigious song and musical event in Eastern Europe. It was there that the stars of the Eastern Block had their success - Helena Vondrackova, Jiži Korn, Frank Schäbel, Alla Pugaczowa, and Maryla Rodowicz. Since 1994, Telewizja Polska S. A has been the sole organiser of the festival. Thanks to the live broadcasts by Channel One of Telewizja Polska S.A. the festival concerts can be watched live by an audience of millions.
In the past few years the following stars performed in Sopot:
Earlier, in the 70s and 80s, the participants and stars performing in the festival included: Charles Aznavour, Shirley Bassey, Boby Solo, The Temptations, Boney M, Johnny Cash, Jose Feliciano, Alison Moyet, Marillion, and Paul Young. Thanks to the International Song Festival, each year the Forest Opera is a major attraction of Sopot in the summer and thanks to the live broadcast, for a few days each year it is the centre of attention throughout Poland. "Sopot Festival" - one of the oldest song contests in Europe, celebrated its 35th jubilee in 1998. For many years now, the unique scenery of the Forest Opera in Sopot has been a background for performances by representatives of various styles and genres of pop music.
The first Sopot festival was initiated and organised in 1961 by Wladyslaw Szpilman from Polish Radio with the help of Szymon Zakrzewski of Polish Artists Management (PAGART). Between 1977 and 1980, it was replaced by the Intervision Song Contest, which was still held in Sopot. Unlike the Eurovision Song Contest, the Sopot International Music Festival often changed its formulas to pick a winner and offered many different contests for its participants. The festival has always been open to non-European acts, and countries like Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mongolia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Peru, South Africa and many others have been represented in this event. The contest lost some of its popularity in Poland and abroad in the 1980s, declining further during the 1990s, and the rather unconvincing organization of TVP made the authorities of Sopot give the organizational responsibilities of the 2005 Sopot International Song Festival to a private TV channel, TVN. From 1999, there was no Grand Prix contest within the festival. TVP chose to invite well-known artists instead, including Whitney Houston and The Corrs. In 2005, TVN was expected to bring the contest back, and in 2006 they invited Elton John. The Sopot International Song Festival is usually considered bigger than the Benidorm International Song Festival or the Karlshamn Baltic Song Festival because of its ability to attract star performers.