‘Dizzying panorama of sound’: Swiss Montreux Jazz Festival announces lineup

The Montreux Jazz Festival is to return this summer promising a "dizzying panorama of sound" after two years muted by the pandemic, with Diana Ross, Bjork, Stormzy and Herbie Hancock in the line-up unveiled on Wednesday.

Revellers at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2021. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
Revellers at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2021. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The 56th festival, from July 1 to 16 in the idyllic town on Lake Geneva, is turning to old friends and some new faces from the world of pop, rap, jazz and rock to get the show back up and running.

“After two editions of enforced silence, the two emblematic halls of the festival will finally be able to give the public and the artists the thrill of live performance again,” organisers said.

For more than half a century, Montreux has been a magnet for big names in the music business, as well as for rising stars. It has retained its jazz label despite dramatically expanding its repertoire since the first edition in 1967.

The 2020 festival was cancelled outright due to Covid-19, while the 2021 event was dramatically scaled down, featuring a small stage 25 metres (80 feet) out on the lake, opposite a grandstand holding 500 spectators.

The 2022 programme, “dense and bursting with colour, once again combines the timeless with the spirit of the times,” organisers said. 

Legend in the line-up 

Norwegian synth-pop trio a-ha are the opening night’s act in the 4,000-capacity Auditorium Stravinski, with the first weekend also featuring Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds followed by Icelandic songstress Bjork with the Sinfonietta de Lausanne.

John Legend, Paolo Nutini, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Diana Ross, the Alan Parsons Live Project, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Van Morrison Jeff Beck and Eurovision-winning Italian rockers Maneskin are also set to star on the main stage.

Meanwhile, the all-standing 2,000-capacity Montreux Jazz Lab will feature The Smile — a new project by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood — and British rapper Stormzy.

The festival will be closed by jazz piano great Hancock, 82, and Jamie Cullum. Motown idol Ross is making her Montreux debut at 78, while Bjork is returning for the first time in 24 years as she releases her 10th album. “This 2022 edition has a special flavour.

First of all because, like the world of culture in general, it is a sign that life is getting back on track,” said the festival’s chief executive Mathieu Jaton.

“We are all emerging from this crisis in different ways; some bruised, some stronger, some weakened, some hardened. But let us not forget that a festival is above all a moment of sharing and celebration.”

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OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

After several months of a relatively low number of coronavirus cases in Switzerland, the rate of infections rose by over 22 percent in a span of seven days this week. What measures are Swiss health officials planning to prevent a new wave?

OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

The Swiss government has said that “further waves of infections are to be expected in the fall/winter of 2022/2023″.

As in previous waves, “the main objective of managing the pandemic is to prevent an overload of the health system. It is currently difficult to predict the magnitude of the waves of infection and, therefore, the burden on the healthcare system”, it added.

According to current estimates, “it can be assumed that ordinary structures will be sufficient to manage the situation”.

However, unless new, deadly variants emerge in the near future, health officials  expect the new wave to be milder than the ones  that struck in the winter of 2020 and 2021.

There are several reasons for this optimism:

Higher immunity

Due to vaccinations and infections, “it is estimated that 97 percent of the Swiss population has been in contact with the virus”, which means that “immunity within the population is currently high”, authorities said.

Lighter course

This means that unlike the early Covid strains like Alpha and Delta, which were highly virulent, the latest dominant mutation — Omicron and its subvariants — while highly contagious, are also less dangerous for most people.

New vaccines

The new version of the Moderna vaccine, which should better target certain sub-variants of Omicron, will be rolled in Switzerland from October 10th.

Compared to the original vaccine, which was effective mostly against early strains and offered no protection against Omicron, “the new vaccine produces a stronger immune response against the Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.4/5″, according to the drug regulatory body, Swissmedic.

READ MORE: BREAKING: Switzerland approves new Covid-19 boosters

Is the government planning any specific measures this winter?

While the severity of the new wave is not yet known, authorities have made several ‘just-in-case’ provisions by, for instance, extending the Covid-19 law until June 2024.

This legislation, which was approved in a referendum in November 2021, allows the Federal Council to maintain and apply emergency measures that are necessary to manage the pandemic. Without the extension, ithe law would lapse in December of this year.

READ MORE: Covid-19 law: How Switzerland reacted to the referendum results

“No one wants to reactivate the Covid law. But after two years of the pandemic, we have understood that we must be ready”, said MP Mattea Meyer.

While no mask mandates or other restrictions are being discussed at this time, the re-activated legislation would allow the authorities to quickly introduce any measures they deem necessary, according to the evolution of the epidemiological situation.

More preparations from the cantons

As it would be up to the cantons to apply measures set by the federal government, some have asked that financing be made available in case regional hospitals have to again accommodate patients from other cantons.

They are also making sure enough intensive care beds are ready for Covid patients.

What about the Covid certificate and tracing?

Though it is no longer used in Switzerland, the certificate continues to be required abroad.

The government will ensure its international compatibility.

The legal basis for the SwissCovid tracking app will also remain in force and can be reactivated during the winter of 2023/2024, if necessary.

MPs are also debating possible rules to be enforced for cross-border workers in the event of border closures.