In previous years, Festival Director Jonathan Mills has found a theme for the festival - the Old World, the New World, and last year's the East. This year the theme seems to have found the festival: the 2012 London Olympics and the parallel cultural Olympiad festival.
Seven performances and productions will form the Edinburgh International Festival’s contribution to the 12-week nationwide London 2012 Festival, while the EIF altogether will bring 3000 artists from 47 nations to the Scottish capital.
Launching the programme, Festival Director Jonathan Mills talked of continuity with assembled media:
'Every year, since 1947 we have set out to create an event to inspire and uplift audiences. In the words of Sir John Falconer, Lord Provost of Edinburgh at the time, the Festival exists to “provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit”. In hard times as well as good the Festival remains one of the world’s most important examples of the power of culture and the arts to transform individual ambitions and lives."
The EIF appears to have shaken off any recessionary blues with funding from the Festival’s many Friends, Patrons, foundations, trusts, sponsors and funders up 15%, making 2012 a record fundraising year for the EIF.
Special project grants for 2012 raised income from the public sector by an additional 12%.
Not surprising to hear Mills comment then: ‘We rejoice in our partnership with the Olympic Games. A partnership that exemplifies the greatest sporting and finest cultural celebrations in the world standing shoulder to shoulder in the same country. I urge you all to join us in Scotland’s stunning capital this August.’
A new addition to the Festival venue circuit in 2012, will see audiences bussing out to a theatrical space at the Royal Highland Centre’s Lowland Hall.
Three productions - which can't be put on in conventional theatre spaces - will be posted at Ingliston during the festival.
Previously announced, Polish theatre company TR Warszawa will be staging its multimedia, Middle Eastern set adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth - 2008: Macbeth (pictured).
Famed French director Ariane Mnouchkine returns to the UK after a gap of 20 years with an epic production Les Naufragés du Fol Espoir (Aurores).
Christoph Marthaler also makes a rare appearance in the UK with an off-the-wall adaptation of My Fair Lady, Meine faire Dame – ein Sprachlabor.
Other theatre directors making rare appearances in the UK at the Edinburgh International Festival this year include the great theatre pedagog and theorist Tadashi Suzuki with his version of Electra and Dmitry Krymov’s Russian version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It).
As well as a Shakespearian comedy, and a tragedy, the bard's narative poem The Rape of Lucrece will be performed by Camille O’Sullivan and Feargal Murray as part of the EIF’s contribution to the nation’s Shakespeare celebrations in the World Shakespeare Festival.
After his memorable Faust in 2009, director Silviu Purcărete returns with a new production of Gulliver’s Travels in collaboration with Irish folk and rock musician Shaun Davey, one of the seven London 2012 Festival shows.
Scotland on the world’s stage, supported through the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund, is celebrated in three Festival projects.
James MacMillan’s new work "Since it was the day of preparation…" will have its World Premiere performed by the Hebrides Ensemble and Synergy Vocals as part of a series of early evening concerts in Greyfriars Kirk.
Scottish Opera celebrates its 50th anniversary with world premieres including new operas from composers Craig Armstrong, Huw Watkins and Stuart MacRae with a second chance to see James MacMillan’s Clemency. Matthew Lenton and theatre company Vanishing Point take Alice in Wonderland as inspiration for a dark and disturbing new work Wonderland.
Les Arts Florissants and William Christie continue their championing of Charpentier’s music with a staged production of the rarely performed David et Jonathas directed by Andreas Homoki.
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, commented: ‘The exciting and vibrant Festival projects that our expanded Expo Fund is supporting this year offer huge potential to celebrate and promote Scotland’s creative strengths on the world stage in 2012, the Year of Creative Scotland.’
The celebration of the UK’s opera companies continues with the premiere of a new production of Janáček’s The Makropulous Case by Opera North with director Tom Cairns and conductor Richard Farnes.
Welsh National Opera is conducted by Lothar Koenigs and joined by great Wagnerian Ben Heppner for a concert performance of Tristan und Isolde in the Usher Hall.
Usher Hall series
Continuing a celebration of the best of British music and musicians the Usher Hall series of evening concerts opens with Delius’s vast masterpiece A Mass of Life conducted by Sir Andrew Davis and performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and closes with the orchestra conducted by David Robertson in a rousing performance of Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast.
Other British orchestras, ensembles and artists include the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, The Sixteen, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Donald Runnicles, Sir Roger Norrington, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Toby Spence, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and the English Concert.
The Usher Hall plays host to the partnership of Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra performing the complete Szymanowski and Brahms symphonies, and Szymanowski’s Violin Concertos with Leonidas Kavakos and Nicola Benedetti making her debut at the Festival.
As in previous years the city will be bursting with musical talent in the Summer. Other visiting international orchestras include the Cleveland Orchestra, Orchestre des Champs-Élysée, Les Arts Florissants, Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Budapest Festival Orchestra.
The European Union Youth Orchestra and the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester represent a focus across the programme on celebrating the emerging artistic elite with young artists already making a global impact appearing across dance, theatre and music at the Festival.
Queen's Hall concerts
Opening The Queen’s Hall morning concert series is a centenary celebration of Kathleen Ferrier who formed a very special relationship with the Festival in its early years. Recent winners of the Kathleen Ferrier Award Kitty Whately and Njabulo Madlala are joined by Sir Thomas Allen and Roger Vignoles in recital.
Other artists appearing in the much loved, live music venue include Maria João Pires, Leif Ove Andsnes, the Calder Quartet, Rebecca Evans, John Williams, John Etheridge, Daniil Trifonov, Llŷr Williams and the Emerson String Quartet.
Over the course of the Festival its broadcast partner BBC Radio 3 will broadcast 14 live and a further nine recorded for broadcast concerts.
The Festival’s recently appointed Honorary President Maestro Valery Gergiev also leads the Mariinsky Ballet and orchestra for four performances of Prokofiev’s Cinderella. It is choreographed by the dance world’s man of the moment Alexei Ratmansky to Prokofiev’s stunning score.
With the geographical themes of previous years behind us, dance sees companies from all corners of the globe. Hot Brazilian moves meet Russian passion when Deborah Colker Dance Company reinterpret Eugene Onegin in the European premiere of Tatyana.
Bathseva Dance Company returns to the Festival with their spectacular Hora, a contemporary dance flirt with science fiction.
Acclaimed French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj brings two programmes with his stunning company of dancers, And then, one thousand years of peace and a Stockhausen double bill with Helikopter and Eldorado.
Renowned digeridoo musician William Barton joins Australia’s Leigh Warren+Dancers for the European premiere of Breathe and Impulse.
The boundary breaking Kathak virtuoso, Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company from India is set to delight, and the vitality and astonishing technique of Juilliard Dance from New York with works by José Limón, Nacho Duato and Alexander Ekman offer audiences yet more great nights out at the Festival.
Power up Holyrood
Thousands of runners at the long-trailed Speed of Light event on Arthur's Seat in Holyrood Park will be joined by thousands of walkers forming the participatory audience for NVA’s event as they make their choreographed routes across the hillscape.
At the foot of Arthur’s Seat the first International Culture Summit will be hosted in the Scottish Parliament, with Culture Ministers from around the world discussing the power and role of culture in international dialogue. The Summit runs over the two days following the Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Games, Monday 13 and Tuesday 14 August.
As is customary, the EIF goes out with a bang, on Sunday 2 September, with the Festival Fireworks Concert - sponsored by Virgin Money: over 100,000 fireworks choreographed to music played live by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra underneath Edinburgh Castle.
This year, the world’s largest fireworks concert celebrates the best of British, and the Queen’s Jubilee, with famous tunes by Walton and Vaughan Williams.
Masterclasses and talks
The Festival programme of masterclasses and a series of lectures and discussions continues during August and the year round, aiding young people to explore their creativity and connect with the arts.
Among the British Council Scotland supported cultural key notes and debates strand, entitled Encounters, Robert McCrum talks about "What Does it Mean to be British?", Louise Martin, Vice Chair of the Organising Committee of the Commonwealth Games Scotland explores what sport means to us today with runners and writers, and James MacMillan comes together with artists and politicians from Israel and Ireland to talk about Truce.
In this Olympic year, the subject of Truce will also be the focus of a day of debate and discussion presented in partnership with the University of Edinburgh.
"The profile, internationalism, tourism and cultural riches brought to the city by the Edinburgh International Festival are part of what makes Edinburgh such a rewarding place to live," said Rt. Hon George Grubb, Lord Lieutenant and Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh.
He called 2012 a "special year", with the Olympics providing an opportunity for the Edinburgh Festival to extend that appeal.
"We look forward to welcoming the artists coming to join this celebration from across the globe."
More on the Edinburgh International Festival.