Preview: Edinburgh International Festival


We take a highlighter pen to this year’s Edinburgh International Festival

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The Harmonium Project

The Harmonium Project

The dust has settled on the launch, the tickets are on sale, you’ve got your hands on one (or more) of the eight ‘collect-the-set’ brochures, with their stark and stunning portrait covers. So, what to see at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival?

As ever, it’s difficult to single out particular events without straying into personal preferences.

Juliette Binoche in Antigone is an obvious touchstone, but Complicite‘s Festival debut with The Encounter, the story of a photographer lost among remote tribes in the Amazon, is also a fascinating proposition. Closer to home, the book that ushered in the modern era of Scottish literature – Alasdair Gray’s Lanark – is adapted by Citizens Theatre under the direction of Graham Eatough to mark the author’s 80th year and the theatre’s 70th. Murmel Murmel promises to get tongues wagging too. From the pen of Swiss writer Dieter Roth, Volksbuhne‘s strange and slapstick Dadaistic piece consists entirely of that single repeated word.

Juliette Binoche in Antigone

Music Editor, Alice Elms, gave the lowdown on the previously announced concerts and recitals programme here, but that’s not all for music at this year’s Festival. On the Festival’s home turf, The Hub, the late night Hub Sessions series will offer up some curious combinations – Canadian all-rounder Chilly Gonzales with the Kaiser Quartett and Mercury-nominated Anna Calvi with the Heritage Orchestra. The most thrilling pair-up of all though takes place at the Festival Theatre, where art-rock from two different generations collides in the form of FFS (Franz Ferdinand & Sparks) on 24 August.

FFS - Franz Ferdinand & Sparks

The opera programme offers two different takes on Mozart. Komische Oper Berlin team up with director Barrie Kosky and British theatre company 1927 for an inventive The Magic Flute from 27 – 30 Aug, while earlier in the month the Budapest Festival Orchestra under the baton of Ivan Fischer present an acclaimed version of The Marriage Of Figaro. At the Royal Lyceum, Irish playwright Enda Walsh collaborates with fellow countryman Donnacha Dennehy for a deadly chamber opera – The Last Hotel.

Germany’s Ballett Am Rhein head up a truly international dance programme with an epic treatment of Mahler’s 7th Symphony, Seven. Other highlights include flamenco from Israel Galvan and a minimalist piece from China’s Tao Dance Theatre.

The Last Hotel

But among all these treats, perhaps the most visually impressive will be the free outdoor spectacular, The Harmonium Project, which launches the festival in style on 7 August. Devised to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, it will combine the vocals of those birthday boys and girls with synchronised animated graphics projected onto the Usher Hall, using technology and data visualisation techniques developed by the University of Edinburgh and College of Art. Ambitious? Yes. Successful? We’ll have to wait and see…

“Anything is possible in this place,” said incoming Festival Director Fergus Linehan in a heartfelt launch speech, which gave more than a nod to inclusivity and the importance of the Festival to everyone, not just the few. It’s too early to know what exactly is possible under his direction, but the 2015 programme augurs well.