The Edinburgh International Festival will mark its 70th year by remembering the spirit of 1947 when the first Edinburgh Festival was introduced against a backdrop of a war-ravaged Europe.
As in the previous two years under festival director Fergus Linehan, the festival opens and closes with large-scale crowd-pleasers - a music and lights show projected onto city buildings in the Standard Life Opening Event: Bloom and the explosive Virgin Money Festival Fireworks finale.
“Bloom” will be the third festival opening show from 59 Productions, creators of the inspired Harmonium Project and Deep Time in previous years. The show will trace the cultural influence of the Edinburgh Festival’s “explosion of colour, vitality and optimism”.
Linehan's programme has echoes throughout of the festival’s origins.
"In our 70th anniversary year, it feels more important than ever perhaps, that we celebrate the founding values of the International Festival and that through a shared celebration of artistic excellence and cultural exchange, we ‘provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit’ and to continue to welcome the world to our city," says Linehan.
Among the 2,020 artists performing in Edinburgh will be Welsh baritone Sir Bryn Terfel, rock goddess PJ Harvey, Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, conductor Riccardo Chailly, Sitar player Anoushka Shankar, and Australian cabaret artist Meow Meow with an “underwater” rendition of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid.
Some of the exciting companies to look out for include The Old Vic Theatre Company, Italian opera house Teatro Regio Torino, contemporary dance company Nederlands Dans Theater, La Scala Filarmonica della Scala, and vintage Scottish psychedelic-folk in a celebration of The Incredible String Band.
The work of Edinburgh-based playwright Zinnie Harris underpins three productions. In Oresteia: This Restless House from the Citizens Theatre, she reimagines Aeschylus’s 2,500-year-old drama with a more sympathetic view of Clytemnestra as avenger of her daughter’s murder by her husband. Modern extremism comes into view in her adaptation of Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinoceros from the Royal Lyceum Theatre with DOT Theatre of Turkey. While her new work Meet me at Dawn with the Traverse Theatre Company, looks at extreme grief, by considering what it would be like to get one more day with someone that you’ve lost.
The Old Vic, which performed in the first Edinburgh Festival, returns with a new play by Alan Ayckbourn, The Divide, that is set in a dystopian, plague-ravaged future, where heterosexual love is banned. Ayckbourn said he wanted to do something for his younger audience. He thought sex would be interesting. “It’s nothing like I’ve ever written before. This is some alter ego.” he says.
Music and dance
There are nine operas this year. Among them classics Puccini’s La bohème, Verdi’s Macbeth (which was the first opera performed in 1947), and Mozart’s Don Giovanni.
Concerts in the Usher Hall feature world class singers including Christine Goerke, Stuart Skelton, Erin Wall and Karen Cargill.
The Opening Concert features Haydn’s Symphony No 94 ‘Surprise’ which was the first work performed at the inaugural Festival concert in 1947. Sir James MacMillan conducts Festival Firsts, a programme of works which each received its world premiere at the International Festival, in an evening featuring Tippett’s Fantasia concertante on a Theme of Corelli, Walton’s Symphony No 2 and MacMillan’s own Epiclesis.
There are 48 concerts and recitals in the Usher and Queen’s Halls and the newly refurbished St Cecilia’s Hall, the oldest purpose-built concert hall in Scotland.
World-leading orchestras visiting this year’s Festival include the Filarmonica della Scala with Riccardo Chailly, the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra with conductor Edward Gardner, the Hallé Orchestra and Sir Mark Elder, the Philharmonia Orchestra with Sir Andrew Davis and the Budapest Festival Orchestra with Music Director Ivàn Fischer. World-leading soloists include Nicola Benedetti, Joshua Bell and Mitsuko Uchida.
Sitar star Anoushka Shankar will be drawing on her album “Land of Gold”, which is inspired by the refugee crisis.
Band members and fans of Scottish psychedelic folk group The Incredible String Band will be celebrating its music on 17th August, and Scottish artist and performer Martin Creed is in residence at the Studio with late night cabaret “Words and Music” throughout the festival.
In the dance strand of the programme Nederlands Dans Theatre returns to Edinburgh after an 11 year absence with a triple bill of major contemporary dance works from internationally acclaimed choreographers Paul Lightfoot, Sol León and Gabriela Carrizo, danced to music from Philip Glass and Max Richter. Meanwhile, East London’s Boy Blue Entertainment debuts its brand of hip-hop dance for the first time at the festival, at The Lyceum Theatre. Blak Whyte Gray, tackles themes of slavery, colonialism and the struggle for freedom.
The EIF also has a season of talks, performances and screenings jointly curated with founding Festival partner the British Council, called "Spirit of ’47". The series examines ideas of global citizenship and international collaboration with perspectives from around the world, exploring the Festival’s founding belief that the arts have the power to bring peoples together. Details will be announced in May.
Tickets for International Festival performances go on sale in a priority period to Festival Friends and Patrons on Saturday 18 March, with public sales going live at 10am on Saturday 25 March.
While some ticket prices are up - tickets to the Edinburgh Festival Fireworks concert at the Ross Theatre are up 6.66% from £30 to £32 since last year, for example - there are deals for youth and concession card holders, with tickets starting from £6.