Victoria International Arts Festival (VIAF) is Malta’s longest-running Festival of its kind. It is a Festival of orchestral, choral and chamber music, which runs for five weeks between June and July every year. During this time, Victoria joins the Festival cities of Europe and beyond, with artists from all over the world converging on Gozo to leave their mark on the soul of this gorgeous Mediterranean island. That is precisely what the Festival in the heart of Victoria, blending drive, professional ethos and the typical Gozo penchant for laid-back charm, has come to signify for an ever-widening network of patrons and admirers hailing from top music centres all over the world down to the cultural-minded visitor and local music lover. Culture makes places distinctive, engendering pride in the local community. It also makes a practical contribution in terms of sustainability, providing employment, encouraging learning and inspiring people to adopt creative and active lifestyles.

VIAF was the brainchild of the late Mro Joseph Vella who was also its first Artistic Director. Together with his committee, Joseph Vella built sound foundations on which VIAF rose and flourished. The current Artistic Director, George Joseph Frendo, continues to build on well-tried and tested platforms with the result that the range and breadth of the programmes offered attests to the high standard, innovation and vision that VIAF has gained a reputation for.

“Twenty years ago, together with the invaluable help of my team of collaborators, we started a mini-revolution in Gozo, which can be said to have had ripple effects not only on our small island but also in Malta. The Victoria International Arts Festival is now not only solidly established on the local scene as a quality Festival of, basically, chamber music, but its fame has overflowed its national boundaries to reach and generate interest in a wide international circle. We are now at a stage where we have to select prospective local and foreign participants who write to us asking to perform. This, of course, puts us in a unique position where we can sift and select material to finally come up with a truly professional line-up that has become synonymous with VIAF. Top-notch internationally-established artists, together with the best from the local scene, are the order of the day in this five-week long extravaganza of daily concerts, which, in line with a policy we initiated nineteen years ago, are also offered to the general public free of charge.

The scope, breadth, range, and standards of the concerts we are proposing are, naturally, made possible through the infrastructure that my hard-working and creative committee members have managed to put together over the years. In fact, the VIAF can now boast to have at its disposal a truly professional grand piano, a first-class harpsichord, a beautiful Baroque organ and, as from this year, a renovated Square Piano, probably the only one functioning in Malta. These resources are, of course, a sine qua non when one is thinking of asking over world-class instrumentalists who would obviously tend to shy away if they know they do not have the ‘right’ instrument to play on.”

8th June 2016

Mission Statement

The Victoria International Arts Festival is a five-week long period of musical and artistic bonanza which is offered to the public free of charge. The purpose behind this policy is multi-pronged:


To encourage as much audience attendance as possible. Despite devising a programme that promotes a high level of excellence, the focus is on accessibility and inclusivity. Providing cultural activity for free over an uninterrupted period of five weeks helps the organisers reach out to a wide spectrum of patrons.


To focus on up-and-coming young musicians and artists, encouraging them to perform and exhibit their talents to a live audience. Specific concerts and events are devised with this cohort in mind.


To appeal to the top echelons of the musical and artistic spectrum, whereby artists who perform in world-renowned venues come to perform in VIAF for free, acknowledging the sound and valid premises on which the Festival is built.


To focus on voluntary work. Not only does the organising committee offer its professional services for free but it also encourages a wide network of young people who are brought on board to help out on a voluntary basis.

A major focus is on voluntary work. Indeed, to date, the organising committee has always offered its professional services for free and this is encouraging young people to come on board and help out, also on a voluntary basis, in anything that is required of them.

Over the past years, the Festival has gone beyond the fondest dreams of the organisers to the extent that for some years now, the Festival has established itself solidly as Malta’s longest-running high culture event with an ever-widening international dimension. All concerts and artistic/cultural events are free of charge.

The philosophy behind the setting up of VIAF is cultural and educational. The policy is that of promoting top-level local talent to share the limelight with their foreign counterparts, and to present a programme of cultural activities that is as diverse and exciting as possible. To this effect, patrons are regaled with a colourful array of concerts ranging from solo recitals, to chamber ensembles in every imaginable formation, jazz and big bands, choirs, dance, and orchestras. There are also literary evenings, exhibitions and master classes in a variety of disciplines.

Over the 23 years of its existence, the organising committee has witnessed solid, consistent and excellent progress in terms of opportunity, quality and standards achieved. Long-term planning is ensuring sustainability and an ever-increasing belief that the project is valid on both a cultural and an educational level.

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Artistic networking is fundamental to the artistic development of the VIAF. The human contact is irreplaceable and foreign musicians, especially, fresh from their experience in Gozo go back to their country and speak about VIAF with their friends. We are inundated by requests from world-class musicians to perform in our Festival and this, for the organising committee, is an eloquent testimony of the validity of our project and our endeavour.

Also, implementing part of the educational policy, the organisers put together a number of master classes in diverse disciplines. These highly-specialised workshops are entrusted to experts, both local and foreign, in their respective fields. For the lower levels, these workshops are offered free of charge, while for the upper levels and post-diploma students a small fee is charged. Foreign tutors also encourage their own students to travel to Gozo for these specialised classes, and this is of utmost benefit for our local students who, because of the geographical and cultural insularity of Gozo and Malta, have limited opportunity to test their own talents and abilities with their foreign counterparts. Concerts are held at the end of these master classes and students are given a certificate by the VIAF.

Last but not least, the VIAF organising committee has gone to great lengths in setting up a concert hall which is fully equipped with the best possible instruments. This concert hall, the Aula Mgr G. Farrugia, forms part of the complex of St George’s Basilica in Victoria. It can rightly be said that this hall, housing a prestigious model of the famous 1785 Antũnes harpsichord, a British eighteenth-century pipe organ and a Yamaha concert grand piano, is the only concert hall in the Maltese islands which is fully equipped for any kind of repertoire in the whole music spectrum. Starting from scratch, these instruments were acquired by the Victoria International Arts Festival Foundation through donations and sponsorships, particularly the Eco-Gozo Project funding by the Ministry for Gozo. These instruments complement the eighteenth-century Santucci organ housed in the Basilica.

“A whole week of cultural (mainly musical) activities preceeded the popular feast of St George at his basilica in Gozo…a festival of events which the organisers hope will become a regular feature in the cultural calendar of these islands”.  (Albert G. Storace, The Times, Tuesday, July 20, 1999)

“In one magical week in Gozo recently, we were regaled for days on end with instrumental music…I do not believe that there is any other place in the world of comparable size that can put such a varied and impressive display of musical talent within the space of a single week…as part of the St George’s Basilica celebrations…giving a new definition of our concept of the annual festa…which I hope will inspire others to follow”.  (Maurice N. Cauchi, The Sunday Times, July 23, 2000)

“VIAF – a quiet revolution.  Activities like these…ensure that Gozo is no longer a cultural back-water that depends on the sister island for intellectual and cultural stimulation”.  (Maurice N. Cauchi, The Times, Wednesday, July 17, 2002)

“One of the most innovative events in the burgeoning Victoria International Arts Festival was the aptly titled ‘The Composer Speaks’…with well-known local composer Mro Joseph Vella commenting on his own style and compositions…a stimulating and highly refreshing experience”.  (Gerald Fenech, The Times, Tuesday, July 23, 2002)

“This cultural festival has put Gozo on the map and it is here to stay.  Everybody is looking forward to next year’s event…”  (Joseph Galea, Letters to the Editor, The Malta Independent, Wednesday, 31, July 2002)

“Cultural lovers have different tastes…the jazz festival is the only feature of the erstwhile Malta Arts Festival to survive.  Some enterprising individuals and organisations have quickly moved in to fill the gap, though.  One must mention the ongoing Victoria International Arts Festival in Gozo…featuring an increasingly ambitious programme with top-notch local and foreign performers spread over a five-week period – with free admission”.  (Editorial, The Sunday Times, July 6, 2003)

“A success story….the biggest privately organised culture festival on the islands.  The festival also includes master classes in a number of instruments, a dance performance, an art exhibition by Phillip Chircop, an encounter with British composer John Hearne and a literary-musical evening…a festival novelty entrusted to Joe Friggieri”.  (Albert G. Storace, Weekender, The Times, July 12, 2003)

“There must hardly be another small community the size of St George’s Basilica capable of organising an arts festival like this, with so many activities spread over five weeks”.  (Albert G. Storace, Weekender, The Times, July 5, 2003)

“Under the stars.  Music and poetry mix beautifully…the Festival organisers are planning to include a similar event in the 2004 edition”.  (Paul Xuereb, The Sunday Times, August 3, 2003)

“A festival that, thanks to the enterprising qualities, hard work and enthusiasm of its organisers…provided music lovers with a series of high quality concerts”.  (Cecilia Xuereb, The Sunday Times, August 3, 2003)

“Victoria Victorious.  Gozitan and Maltese music lovers are preparing for an amazing marathon, the Victoria International Arts Festival…there will be events almost every night, all of them of a very high calibre…the setting, of course, is magnificent”.  (Ann Monsarrat, Showtime The Times Arts Supplement, Friday, June 4, 2004)

“Debuttantes at Gozo Festival.  The Victoria International Arts Festival has been given a new dimension this year…In this way, the festival extended its educational objectives further by giving young talent the experience of performing before an audience”.  (Martina Caruana, The Sunday Times, July 11, 2004)

“Musical bounty in Gozo.  It is almost a miracle in this age of crass commercialism they manage year after year, not only to bring to tiny Gozo such rich musical bounty, but also to offer it, without charge, to all music lovers”.  (Peter Sutton, Letters to the Editor, The Sunday Times, August 22, 2004)

“In the few short years that the Victoria International Arts Festival has been in existence it has earned a reputation of both quality and diversity…This year’s festival… promises to be the most impressive yet”.  (This month’s must see, Showtime The Times Arts Supplement, Friday, June 3, 2005)

“The variety and richness of talent regaling the public with excellent music making continued…with a recital by the Weimarer Wind Quintet…The recital ended with a great work for wind quintet, which Jean Francaix wrote in 1948.  I do not remember a live performance of this work in these islands”.  (Albert G. Storace, The Sunday Times, July 31, 2005)

“Even while Foreign Ministers and ambassadors were discussing bilateral relations between Malta and Norway, a charming group of musicians from Norway proved to be the most effective cultural ambassadors for their country and promoters of bilateral relations…in Gozo to take part in the Victoria International Arts Festival as part of their prize for winning the National Music Competition of Norway held in 2004”.  (Cecilia Xuereb, The Sunday Times, July 10, 2005)

“The return of pianist Michelangelo Carbonara marked the end of a very successful Victoria International Arts Festival.  This six-week-long event brought together a variety of artists from all over Europe”.  (Cecilia Xuereb, The Sunday Times, August 14, 2005)

“Saying it through music.  One more happening to which I have been only too pleased and honoured to extend my full support is… the Victoria international Arts Festival consisting of a whole month of high-powered music making….This year’s schedule was replete with striking and exciting innovations…set to be a significant milestone in the local cultural scene”.  (Hon. Francis Zammit Dimech, Minister for Culture and Tourism, The Sunday Times, July 24, 2005)

Prof. Maurice Cauchi, writing in the Sunday Times of Malta in 2006, dubbed VIAF as “a quiet revolution”.

“Like no other…and it’s all free!” (Marion Zammit, Preview Victoria International Arts Festival, Weekender, June 24, 2006)

“Gregorian chant inaugurates Gozo festival….This was a memorable experience and certainly a start that augurs well for a successful festival”.  (Martina Caruana, The Sunday Times, July 2006)

“The zarzuela evening at the Aula Mgr G. Farrugia in Victoria, Gozo, must be considered as another first….there is always innovative thinking driving its enterprising organisers.  I have never come across an evening totally devoted to live excerpts from this very entertaining and quintessentially Spanish art form”.  (Albert G. Storace, Weekender, July 8, 2006)

“Magical performance.  Myths and Mediterranean characters.  For the first time in its history, the festival moved outside Victoria and went to Ġġantija Temples.  This is a uniquely magnificent venue because the monumentality of the structures suited the tragic heights behind Berlioz’s cantata Cleopatre, while the preserved yet ruined state of the site added more poignancy…when Orfeo et Eurdyce was performed”.  (Albert G. Storace, Weekender, July 8, 2006)

“Listening to an English mechanical organ with original wooden pipes made in 1790 being played in the middle of Victoria may sound incongruous.  Not, however, when one is acquainted with the resourcefulness of the festival organisers…The organ, restored, rebuilt and donated by Richard Vendome…Originally the organ was built for the Methodist Church of Hither Green in London”.  (Kenneth Zammit Tabona, Weekender, August 5, 2006)

“The Tenth edition of the Victoria International Arts Festival is a special edition…Spearheaded by three enthusiasts, the festival has grown in both the extent of its events as well as in the audience it attracts.  These two facts were all too visible during the second concert…that presented a group of singers from Japan to a packed audience..”.  (Cecilia Xuereb, The Sunday Times, June 24, 2007)

“Over the past decade the Victoria International Arts Festival has provided lovers of the arts with an opportunity for varied aesthetic experiences.  Although focusing on music as art form, it has also presented visual arts and literary evenings while also caring to give opportunities to young talent to develop through workshops and masterclasses.  Moreover it has sought to make all these experiences financially accessible to all”.  (Martina Caruana, The Sunday Times, June 24, 2007)

“Al fresco brass.  On Sunday, the Victoria International Arts Festival moved out to the roof of the basilica for the performance by the Island Brass ensemble.  Flanked by the cupola on one side and by the breathtaking view of the Cittadella on the other, the place proved to be ideal for the concert…”.  (Cecilia Xuereb, The Sunday Times, July 1, 2007)

“One beneficial outcome from the Victoria International Arts Festival has been the opportunity to participating performers, mostly foreign, as well as the audience to be exposed to the music of Joseph Vella whose opus for every imaginable combination of instruments is quite prodigious”.  (Cecilia Xuereb, The Sunday Times, July 29, 2007)

“I share with Kenneth Zammit Tabona one of his most pleasant experiences…We were fortunate to attend two of the concerts arranged by Joseph Vella and his committee at St George’s Basilica.  What a nice man Prof. Vella is and what a pleasure to hear the Japanese choir…and the excellent brass ensemble…Thank you Gozo”.  (Ray Jones, Lancashire, UK, Letters to the editor, The Times, Tuesday, July 17, 2007)

“Feast of musical delights in Gozo.  What a gourmet feast of musical delights these islands have been served over the past 27 days.  Many congratulations to the organising committee of the Victoria International Arts Festival 2007…The quality, flavour, variety, artistic texture and quality of the delights served to us has been literally out of this world.  Gozo, and our sister island Malta, should be proud…”.  (Alan Jones, Għajnsielem, Letters to the editor, The Times, Friday, July 27, 2007)

“Victoria Regina.  The Victoria International Arts Festival has, over the past few years, evolved into a major arts festival…The overall musical director of the VIAF is none other than Mro Joseph Vella, who seems to be joined at the hip to St George’s”.  (Showtime, The Times, Friday, June 6, 2008)

“Quite recently Carbonara gave this ‘Italian’ recital at the Carnegie Hall to much acclaim.  In Gozo, music lovers could hear him for free, which reminds one of the gratitude owed to the tireless organisers of this annual festival”.  (Albert G. Storace, The Sunday Times, July 13, 2008)

“The festival has grown and from what I hear there have been some pretty outstanding events in this year’s edition and with still more to come”.  (Albert G. Storace, The Times Weekender Saturday, July 19, 2008)

“The concert on Friday, July 21, at the Victoria International Arts Festival presented an unusual combination of instruments….a duo made up of percussion, mostly the vibraphone, and piano…This, I found out, blends very nicely with the pianoforte”.  (Cecilia Xuereb, The Sunday Times, July 27, 2008)

“St George’s feast is remarkable for being preceded by the Victoria International Arts Festival, a five-week music festival now in its 11th edition, packed with high-calibre concerts and featuring no fewer than 600 artists…the raison d’etre of the festival is to inspire the soul with high culture, “confirming the church as a prime mover of culture””.  (George Camilleri, A passion running high, Feature, Let’s Gozo, Issue No. 16, July, 2008)

“Vital and dynamic.  If one can go by the performance of the Lakota Trio…this year’s edition – the 12th – is one of the best that have been presented so far”.  (Cecilia Xuereb, The Sunday Times, July 5, 2009)

“The high standard of the concert repertoire being presented by the Victoria International Arts Festival in Gozo is admirable and is being maintained throughout.  It was a privilege to listen to violinist Marcello Canci and pianist Gabriele Campagna in a compelling duo programme”.  (Corinne Briffa, The Sunday Times, July 19, 2009)

“I am a great affacionado of this festival…The festival is much longer than the Malta one and has been in existence for far longer to boot…”.  (Albert G. Storace, The Sunday Times, July 19, 2009)

“Vella extravaganza ends festival.  This was a culmination of a long and interesting festival, organised by…a small committee, but one which works unstintingly from year to year to ensure that standards are not only maintained but excelled”.  (Kenneth Zammit Tabona, The Times Weekender Saturday, July 25, 2009)

“Those of us who live in Gozo are lucky indeed to have such a brilliant series of concerts taking place daily for a month every summer attracting musicians and people from all parts of the world”.  (Jel Goranson, Victoria, Letters to the Editor, Thursday, July 30, 2009)

“Every time I manage to attend some of the VIAF’s events I am reminded by friends and acquaintances what a wealth of high calibre performances I have missed”.  (Albert G. Storace, The Sunday Times, July 11, 2010)

“Sensual and sumptuous finale.  Traipsing off to Gozo for a cultural treat…whether it is opera…or the extensive and varied Victoria International Arts Festival, a crossing is well worth it…The grand finale of the Victoria International Arts Festival takes place a week before the titular feast in the utterly sumptuous basilica of St George…”.  (Kenneth Zammit Tabona, The Sunday Times, July 18, 2010)

“Well, the Gozo “miracle” as I call it, had to end with a bang and it did in this concert”.  (Albert G. Storace, The Times, Wednesday, July 21, 2010)

“For the second time in less than a week, I was indeed fortunate to hear a world-class violinist and pianist performing in recital….This latter experience was thanks to that annual ‘Gozo miracle’ that is the VIAF”.  (Albert G. Storace, The Times, Wednesday, June 22, 2011)

“Wonderful Pergolesi, baroque pearls mark summer solstice.  There could not be two lovlier baroque works to traipse across to Gozo for than Pachelbel’s Canon and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater…There could not be a more flamboyant church interior to set off baroque gems than San Ġorġ with its magnificent bronze baldachin which reflects and compliments Bernini’s barley sugar columned masterpiece in St Peter’s.  Conducted by Mro Joseph Vella…Gianluca Alonzi, described as ‘sopranista’ and Roberto Colavalle, described as ‘contraltista’…This was the first but I hope not the last time I will be listening to this work sung by two male singers…which made the interpretation of this lovely work simply unforgettable.  I really don’t think I would ever wish to listen to the Pergolesi performed in any other way”.  (Kenneth Zammit Tabona, The Sunday Times, July 3, 2011)

“All good things come to an end…and so did this year’s edition of the Victoria International Arts Festival with a grand orchestral concert…the festival, yet again reached local and foreign music lovers, who were regaled to the usual high quality performances by the best local talet and of distinguished foreign participants”.  (Albert G. Storace, The Times, Wednesday, July 20, 2011)

“…The Victoria International Arts Festival, a five-week long feast of classical performances by artists from all over Europe held at St George’s Basilica…concerts are free of charge and deserve much greater prominence in the Maltese cultural calendar”.  (John Gruzelier, London, Letters to the Editor, The Times, March 30, 2012)

“For the next five weeks, Victoria joins the festival cities of the world, with artists and ensembles combining to leave their mark on the soul of the island.  The festival in the heart of Victoria blends drive, professional ethos and the typical Gozo penchant for laid-back charm”.  (Annaliza Borg, The Malta Independent, Friday 8 June2012)

“At this moment, Victoria is widely believed to be the cultural capital of the Maltese islands, branding a new Gozo that, over the past three decades, has consistently emerged as a town brimming with cultural activities…bringing world-renowned artists from all over the globe….The Victoria International Arts Festival…includes various concerts and recitals from European top performers as well as the cream of the local talent…this festival of glittering choices which have always been musically brilliant and orchestrally outstanding”.  (Lino Bugeja, Talking Point, The Times, Friday, June 8, 2012)

“…The Victoria International Arts Festival, a five-week long feast of classical performances by artists from all over Europe held at St George’s Basilica…concerts are free of charge and deserve much greater prominence in the Maltese cultural calendar”.  (John Gruzelier, London, Letters to the Editor, The Times, March 30, 2012)

Critic Albert Storace calls VIAF “the Gozo miracle”. (Times of Malta)

The Martinů Quartet, on the demise of Mro Joseph Vella: “Let the Festival be successful in fulfilling the legacy of Mro Vella”.