Edinburgh International Festival unveils its 2017 programme which marks the event’s 70th anniversary. This year’s International Festival runs from Friday 4 to Monday 28 August, welcoming 2,020 artists from 40 nations to perform in Scotland’s capital city.
Unveiling his third International Festival programme, Director Fergus Linehan revealed a mix of world-class talent from across the performing arts, featuring the very best contemporary artists and ensembles. Major artists include British bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel, singer-songwriter Jarvis Cocker, world-renowned conductor Riccardo Chailly, playwright Alan Ayckbourn, Sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar, Australian chanteuse Meow Meow, violinist Nicola Benedetti and Mercury Prize winner PJ Harvey.
Companies and ensembles include The Old VicTheatre Company, revered Italian opera house Teatro Regio Torino, world-leading dance company Nederlands Dans Theater, the orchestra of Milan’s world-renowned opera house La Scala Filarmonica della Scala, anda celebration of the music of psychedelic-folk legends The Incredible String Band.
In a special season, leading Scottish theatre companies the Citizens Theatre, Royal Lyceum Theatre and the Traverse Theatre Company present works which consider the origins of European drama from a contemporary perspective. Each examines, in different ways, the fragility of human relationships, society and civilisation. The work of Edinburgh-based playwright Zinnie Harris underpins all three productions: Oresteia: This Restless House from the Citizens Theatre, a reimagining of Aeschylus’s 2,500-year-old drama; an new adaptation of Eugène Ionesco’s comment on the rise of extremism, Rhinoceros from the Royal Lyceum Theatre with DOT Theatre of Turkey,and the world premiere of new work Meet me at Dawn from the Traverse Theatre Company.
The International Festival was established in 1947 in the aftermath of the Second World War to ‘provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit’ through a shared celebration of artistic excellence and cultural exchange. The 2017 programme celebrates 70 years of outstanding virtuosity and innovation, and explores how the Festival’s founding ideals still resonate in today’s uncertain world.
The International Festival begins with a free, public outdoor event on Friday 4 August. The Standard Life Opening Event: Bloom is a large-scale art event that celebrates the explosion of colour, vibrancy and optimism that supported the arrival of the International Festival in 1947, and its subsequent cultural influence in Edinburgh and the rest of the world. The event brings together illuminations and projections in a central Edinburgh location produced for the third year by 59 Productions, creators of the acclaimed Harmonium Project and Deep Time.
Theatre highlights include The Old Vic – which performed at the first Festival in 1947 and often over the first decade – with a world premiere from one of the country’s best-loved playwrights Alan Ayckbourn. The Divide is a darkly satirical love story is presented in two parts at the King’s Theatre over two weeks. The Divide follows recent International Festival co-productions which enjoyed great success in Edinburgh before being seen extensively including The Encounter on Broadway and at festivals around the world and The Glass Menagerie now on stage in London’s West End and recently nominated for 7 Olivier Awards.
The contemporary music programme features artists including singer-songwriter and Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker with Chilly Gonzalez, The Magnetic Fields, Mercury Prize winners PJ Harvey and Benjamin Clementine, Sitar star Anoushka Shankar and a celebration of the music of Edinburgh’s own The Incredible String Band.
Australian chanteuse and Edinburgh favourite Meow Meow presents Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid, in a subversive re-telling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale. This shimmering ‘underwater’ cabaret is staged nightly at International Festival HQ The Hub, throughout August.
An expanded opera programme presents works from all ages and for all appetites. The nine operas will appeal to both seasoned fans and opera newcomers alike. Highlights include classic operas Puccini’sLa bohème, Verdi’s Macbeth, and Mozart’s Don Giovanni, while concert performances in the Usher Hall feature world class singers including Sir Bryn Terfel, Christine Goerke, Stuart Skelton, Erin Wall and Karen Cargill.
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.
One of the world’s greatest dance companies, Nederlands Dans Theatre, returns to Edinburgh after an 11 year absence, and hip-hop lands at The Lyceum Theatre withEast London’s Boy Blue Entertainment. Boy Blue also performs at Castlebrae Community High School which is turned into a performance venue for the first time, the culmination of a three-year residency between the International Festival and the school. Senior pupils have been learning about the skills required to run an event venue and will support the Festival team to deliver the performances.
The International Festival will once again be brought to a spectacular conclusion on Monday 28 August with the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert, when over 400,000 fireworks will burst into the sky above Edinburgh Castle, choreographed to live music from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
The International Festival also continues to offer great value for young ticket buyers aged 18 and under, with a discount of 50% available on selected events from the opening of ticket sales. Students in full time education are entitled to a discount of 30% from 5 July onwards, with £8 tickets available for those aged 26 and under, on the day of performance.
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. A range of prices are available across the programme, with tickets starting from just £6.
International Festival 2017
In Theatre, The Old Vic, which performed many times in the Festival’s first decade, returns with a premiere from one of the country’s best-loved playwrights Alan Ayckbourn, in co-production with the International Festival. The Divide is a darkly satirical story set in a future England in which a dystopian society of forbidden love and insurrection has emerged in the aftermath of a devastating plague. The show is directed by The Old Vic’s Associate Director Annabel Bolton and is presented in two parts at the King’s Theatre over a two-week run, before opening at The Old Vic in its autumn season. Full casting details will be announced this summer.
A special season for the 70th anniversary Festival sees four Scottish theatre companies – Citizens Theatre, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Traverse Theatre Company and Vox Motus – present works which consider the origins of European drama from a contemporary perspective. The work of Edinburgh-based playwright Zinnie Harris underpins three of these productions: Oresteia: This Restless House from the Citizens Theatre, reimagines Aeschylus’s 2,500-year-old drama; from the Royal Lyceum Theatre, working with DOT Theatre of Istanbul, an adaptation of Eugène Ionesco’s 1930s comment on the rise of Fascism Rhinoceros; and the world premiere of original work Meet me at Dawn from the Traverse Theatre Company, which redefines the Orpheus and Eurydice myth as a modern love story. Vox Motus presents the world premiere of Flight, an adaptation of the novel Hinterland by Caroline Brothers which follows two young brothers as they journey across Europe from their home in Afghanistan in search of freedom and safety. These productions are supported by the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund.
Two new venues for 2017 host more theatre. At the Churchill Theatre, Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape is performed by Irish actor Barry McGovern in a new production directed by Michael Colgan, outgoing Artistic Director of Dublin’s Gate Theatre. The Studio at the Festival Theatre houses two contrasting works - Real Magic from acclaimed Sheffield-based company Forced Entertainment and a late-night residency from Turner Prize-winning artist and performer Martin Creed, whose nightly cabaret Words & Music fills the venue over three weeks. The home of the International Festival, The Hub, will for the second year host a nightly house show running throughout August. Australian chanteuse Meow Meow returns to the International Festival with Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid, a theatrical re-telling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, featuring original songs from collaborators including Amanda Palmer.
Contemporary Music sees pioneering artists from across the globe come to Edinburgh, featuring unique collaborations that reach across international borders. Theatrical presentations of two contemporary song cycles take place at the King’s Theatre: former Pulp front-man Jarvis Cocker partners with pianist Chilly Gonzalez and the Kaiser Quartett to give voice to Room 29, in an imagined history of the infamous room in Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont Hotel. And in an International Festival co-commission, singer-songwriter Stephen Merritt and The Magnetic Fields present 50 Song Memoir, an autobiographical journey though Merritt’s life performed over two evenings. Virtuoso sitar player and world music progressive Anoushka Shankar performs work from her album Land of Gold, and is joined by Pakistani Qawwali singer Faiz Ali Faiz as her special guest at the Usher Hall. Two-time Mercury Prize winner PJ Harvey visits the Edinburgh Playhouse for two nights performing songs from her Grammy-nominated album The Hope Six Demolition Project, whilst another Mercury Prize winner Benjamin Clementine is joined by special guests at the Festival Theatre for an evening of music celebrating international cultures. Lastly a special event at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery brings together a diverse group of artists to explore themes of colonialism and repression in Robert Burns: Chains and Slavery, featuring poet and Makar Jackie Kay and singer-songwriter Ghetto Priest, with the Scottish Ensemble. The music of psychedelic folk group The Incredible String Band – one of the most influential groups to come out of Scotland – is celebrated in a special one-off gig at the Edinburgh Playhouse. Curated by their manager, the renowned American producer Joe Boyd – whose career spans work with major acts including Pink Floyd, Fairport Convention and Nick Drake – the concert features band member Mike Heron alongside collaborators from the band’s original recordings and contemporary fans, with the full line-up released this summer.
An expanded Opera programme, featuring nine operas in total, marks the 70th anniversary by celebrating the central role that the artform played in the founding years of the Festival. Teatro Regio Tornio and Music Director Gianandrea Noseda are resident in Edinburgh for a fortnight as they bring two operas to the Festival Theatre: Verdi’s Macbeth – the first opera staged at the inaugural International Festival – in a new staging from director Emma Dante, and Puccini’s La bohème in a production directed by Àlex Ollé. Following his acclaimed reimagining of The Marriage of Figaro at the 2015 International Festival, Iván Fischer conducts and directs his vision of Mozart’s Don Giovanni with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and baritone Christopher Maltman in the title role. Scottish Opera and Opera Ventures present a new staging of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s landmark opera Greek, an adaptation of Steven Berkoff’s acclaimed play, which was co-commissioned and premiered by the International Festival in 1988, with conductor Stuart Stratford and director Joe Hill-Gibbons. As part of a project marking the 450th anniversary of the composer’s birth Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir bring semi-staged performances of Claudio Monteverdi’s three surviving operas – L’Orfeo, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria and I’incoronazione di Poppea – to the Usher Hall. Opera in concert at the Usher Hall also includes the second instalment of a four-year concert presentation of Wagner’s Ring cycle with Sir Andrew Davis leading the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in Die Walküre with a stellar cast of soloists led by Sir Bryn Terfel and Christine Goerke. The final opera in concert sees Edward Gardner conduct the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert performance of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, with tenor Stuart Skelton in the title role.
The world’s foremost classical musicians gather once more in Edinburgh with 48 concerts and recitals in the Usher and Queen’s Halls and the newly refurbished St Cecilia’s Hall. Visiting orchestras include Filarmonica della Scala, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra making their International Festival debuts, The Hallé, the Mariinsky Orchestra, the Budapest Festival Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra. Major soloists performing include violinist Joshua Bell, who as International Festival artist in residence gives three concerts, Nicola Benedetti, Julian Rachlin and Christian Tetzlaff with appearances from outstanding pianists including Mitsuko Uchida, Mikhail Pletnev, Paul Lewis, Sergei Babayan and Leif Ove Andsnes. World-class singers Sir Bryn Terfel, René Pape, Karen Cargill, Erin Wall, and emerging talents Benjamin Appl and Venera Gimadieva also perform. On the podium, acclaimed conductors include Riccardo Chailly, Louis Langrée and Valery Gergiev.
Significant moments from the Festival’s 70 year history are marked throughout the classical music programme. 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. A unique concert features the Mariinsky and Royal Scottish National Orchestras conducted by Valery Gergiev. It celebrates two great 20th century composers with deep connections to the International Festival Dmitri Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten. The orchestras combine to perform Shostakovich’s Symphony No 4, which received its western premiere at the 1962 International Festival. The classical programme concludes with a 70th Anniversary Celebration Concert featuring the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra with Martyn Brabbins, in a special evening which brings together live music, archive film and interviews which toast 70 years of Festival memories.
Key choral moments in the Usher Hall include four concerts featuring the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, the International Festival’s exceptional choir. They perform Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang with Pablo Heras Casado and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in The Opening Concert, with Sir Andrew Davis and the Philharmonia Orchestra in Elgar’s King Olaf, with Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra in Berlioz’s epic La damnation de Faust. They also perform works by Verdi and Respighi in an Italian-flavoured Closing Concert with Riccardo Chailly and the Filarmonica della Scala. Other choral highlights include Verdi’s Requiem from the Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro Regio Torino with Gianandrea Noseda. The Edinburgh Festival Chorus and Chorus Master Christopher Bell also lead a new event for 2017 – Come and Sing International, an invitation to singers to join the Chorus for an afternoon’s rehearsal of works by Mahler, Vaughan Williams and Verdi.
The renovation of St Cecilia’s Concert Hall is celebrated in a series of six concerts tailor-made for this newly reopened venue, which is the oldest purpose-built concert hall in Scotland. Some concerts will use period instruments from the University of Edinburgh’s collection and feature the Ensemble Marsyas, Mahan Esfahani, Kristian Bezuidenhout, Julian Prégardien,Rachel Podger with the Brecon Baroque and conductor and keyboardist Richard Egarr.
Dance this year brings old favourites and fresh artists to Edinburgh. Nederlands Dans Theater returns to the International Festival after 11 years 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. Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and her company Rosas last performed at the International Festival in 2008, this year they return with Rain, a powerfully emotional work set to Steve Reich’s iconic masterpiece ‘Music for 18 Musicians’. Yo, Carmen is a reimagining of Bizet’s voluptuous story from the flamenco dancer and choreographer María Pagés and company, blending dance, live music, poetry and theatre together in a gripping original performance for eight dancers and seven musicians. Award-winning East London hip-hop company Boy Blue Entertainment bring its unique style to Edinburgh for the first time with Blak Whyte Gray, the hit dance theatre work tackling themes of slavery, colonialism and the struggle for freedom. The International Festival continues to programme dance work for young people. Vuelos is a fantastical dance theatre piece for children and families from the multi-award winning Spanish company Aracaladanza, which explores man’s eternal fascination with the possibility of flight. Accompanying the performances of Vuelos, Aracaladanza will run two family workshops for children aged 5 to 8 and their families.
Spirit of ’47 is a season of talks, performances and screenings jointly curated with founding Festival partner the British Council. 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. The series includes the concerts from Anoushka Shankar and Benjamin Clementine. Full details of Spirit of ’47 will be announced in May.
The International Festival is brought to a spectacular conclusion on Monday 28 August with the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert. Over 400,000 fireworks will burst into the sky above Edinburgh Castle, choreographed to live music from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra led by conductor Clark Rundell. A selection of Tchaikovsky’s ballet music forms the centrepiece of the evening, flanked by two Scottish masterpieces, Sir James MacMillan’s ceilidh-inspired Stomp and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise. Ahead of the Fireworks Concert, for the third consecutive year a Schools Concert takes place at the Ross Theatre in Princes St Gardens on the morning of Monday 28 August, with school children from across Edinburgh invited to hear live music from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
The International Festival reaches thousands of young people every year through creative learning programmes in schools such as The Art of Listening, which introduces primary school pupils to classical music, as well as dance and other arts led workshops. The Festival is in the third year of a special relationship with Castlebrae Community High School and August sees the school gym hall being transformed into an International Festival venue presenting hip-hop dance company Boy Blue Entertainment – also performing at The Lyceum - with the world premiere of a new show Project R.E.B.E.L. Students have worked with the International Festival team through one-to-one mentoring and work experience programmes as well as external company’s such as the Festival’s Official Catering Partner Appetite Direct to learn about the different elements necessary to run a world class event in a professional venue.
The International Festival continues to offer great value for young ticket buyers aged 18 and under, with a discount of 50% available on selected events from the opening of ticket sales. Students in full time education are entitled to a discount of 30% from 5 July onwards, with £8 tickets available for those aged 26 and under, on the day of performance.
Broadcaster partnerships continue to extend the reach of the International Festival. For a third year, we partner with BBC Arts Digital to present Artists Conversations. This series sees International Festival artists interviewed in front of a live audience and live streamed, artists will include Meow Meow and Nicola Benedetti. Tickets for the live event are free and will be available at eif.co.uk from May. BBC Radio 3 continues to partner with the International Festival, broadcasting live from The Queen’s Hall morning concerts and recording six Usher Hall concerts for later broadcast.
The International Festival is one of the world’s largest and most diverse curated festivals, as well as one of the most accessible, offering a range of discounts and affordable entry price tickets. The International Festival continues to attract people from across the globe, expecting its audiences to travel from around 70 nations this year to be part of the global cultural celebration in Edinburgh.
Fergus Linehan, Festival Director said: ‘‘Since 1947, the International Festival has extended an invitation from the people of Scotland to people all over the world, to join us in celebrating the unparalleled creativity and talent that great artists bring to Edinburgh. 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”.
Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs: “The Edinburgh International Festival has entertained, delighted and provoked audiences for 70 years, helping to shape Scotland’s identity as progressive, welcoming and world-renowned in its delivery of high-quality arts. Countless countries have followed our example ever since to develop their own festivals. As in 1947, the International Festival’s inclusive ethos towards international artists and audiences is just as important and relevant today. This year, the Scottish Government’s EXPO fund will support local theatres and scriptwriters to examine the origins of European drama, a timely theme considering the discourse taking place in many European countries right now. Cultural expression is more important than ever in times of economic or political uncertainty.”
Janet Archer, Chief Executive of Creative Scotland said: “The 70th year of the Edinburgh International Festival feels more vital than ever before. The festival was designed to 'provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit' through bringing people together to celebrate different cultures from across the world through high quality artistic experiences. Scotland remains a fitting home for this important event, which every year transcends borders and inspires hearts and minds. This year’s programme ranges from the unique chance to see Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Rain to the debut of Mercury Music Prize winner Benjamin Clementine, the premiere of a new Alan Ayckbourn play and a staging of Verdi’s Macbeth, the very first opera to be performed at the inaugural festival all those decades ago. Scottish talent is woven into the heart of the festival, as our theatre companies, orchestras and ensembles take centre stage alongside singular talents such as Martin Creed, Nicola Benedetti and Jackie Kay. This is a very special programme indeed in a very important anniversary year."
Councillor Richard Lewis, Edinburgh's Festivals and Events Champion, said: “This summer, the world’s greatest artists and ensembles will descend on our capital to celebrate the 70th anniversary of one of the biggest arts festival in the world – our Edinburgh International Festival. The Council and the city has championed the Festival since its inception in 1947. Seventy years later, the event continues to bring thousands of people together from all over Scotland and the world in a celebration of the arts and culture. From opera to the Old Vic, Joshua Bell to Jarvis Cocker, the 2017 programme will feature 2,020 artists in a diverse mix of music, dance and theatre. It could just be one of the most pioneering programmes yet. I am delighted we are this year providing additional financial support to mark the milestone year, which will also see a new generation of Festival fans showcase their very own performance venue. Pupils from Edinburgh’s Castlebrae Community High School will support the Festival team to deliver a world-class venue at their school, presenting a brand new hip-hop show. Don’t miss it.”