Edinburgh International Festival programme launched

Tuesday 18, March 2014


Edinburgh International Festival programme launched


Over 2,400 artists from 43 nations have been invited to Edinburgh to perform in the annual showcase of the world’s great performing artists.


Exploring the relationship between culture and conflict in the year of the centenary commemoration of the First World War, the Festival presents theatre, dance and music that looks at the work of artists who in difficult and uncertain circumstances can transcend their surroundings to create work of great beauty and optimism.

Artists and companies include Kronos Quartet, Mariinsky Opera, Stan Douglas, Luk Perceval, National Theatre of Scotland and National Theatre of Great Britain, Heiner Goebbels, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, Rambert, Nicola Benedetti, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Lemi Ponifasio, Tom Cairns, Chekov International Theatre Festival, Czech Philharmonic, Ute Lemper, Handspring Puppet Company, Brett Bailey, Blythe Duff, Sofie Gråbøl, Paco Peña Flamenco Company, Mark Baldwin, Daniil Trifonov, Anne Sofie von Otter, Piotr Anderszewski, Oliver Knussen, Jordi Savall, Collegium Vocale Gent and many, many others.
Reflecting the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the Edinburgh International Festival in 2014 has invited artists from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to make a significant contribution to the Festival.

A season of work celebrating the 20th anniversary of democracy in South Africa opens with the world premiere of a new ballet Inala. Composer Ella Spira has collaborated with Ladysmith Black Mambazo which performs live creating the soundscape for dancers from Rambert and The Royal Ballet choreographed by Mark Baldwin. 

Handspring Puppet Company is remounting the work which made its name internationally, based on the text by Alfred Jarry and the transcriptions of the South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee, Ubu and the Truth Commission. The Festival is part of an international co-producing partnership bringing this seminal work back to the stage.

South African artist Brett Bailey brings to Edinburgh his provocative and widely acclaimed live installation Exhibit B which will be staged in the grand setting of the Playfair Library Hall.

The South African season is the Festival’s official contribution to the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme and is supported by the Glasgow 2014 Organising Committee, Glasgow Life, and Creative Scotland through National Lottery funding. The South African season is also supported by City of Edinburgh Council and the Department of Arts and Culture, South Africa. 

Epic centerpieces of the Festival in 2014 come in the form of three plays on three kings of Scotland, The James Plays by Rona Munro, and Berlioz’s masterpiece Les Troyens, staged in Scotland for the first time in over 40 years.

The James Plays starring James McArdle, Blythe Duff, Andrew Rothney, Jamie Sives and Sofie Gråbøl among a very strong ensemble cast directed by Laurie Sansom, mark the first co-production between the National Theatre of Scotland and the National Theatre of Great Britain, and the Edinburgh International Festival. The James Plays mark Laurie Sansom’s artistic debut in his new role as artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland. The trilogy is supported by The Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund.

Festival audiences can experience all three plays in one day or spread the works, each filled with vibrant and powerful storytelling, over three days at the Festival Theatre.

Valery Gergiev and the mass forces of the Mariinsky Opera and Orchestra gather to perform Greek director Yannis Kokkos’s vast staging of Berlioz’s The Trojans. This epic opera experience set the path for Wagner’s subsequent Ring cycle and rich orchestration.

Also in the opera programme for Festival 2014 is Benjamin Britten’s ground-breaking opera written for television, Owen Wingrave, a co-production between Aldeburgh Music and Edinburgh International Festival. A story of a young man’s moral tussle with his family’s military history and expectations in a production directed by Neil Bartlett and conducted by Mark Wigglesworth, this is the first time Owen Wingrave will be staged at the Festival.

The Festival’s other co-productions this year include The War, the story of young artists in Paris from 1913 onwards directed by Vladimir Pankov and staged by the Chekhov International Theatre Festival; and I AM, a new production from choreographer Lemi Ponifasio and MAU, last at the Festival in 2010 with Birds with Skymirrors and Tempest: Without a Body. 

Tom Cairns directs Peter Eyre in an Edinburgh International Festival production of Minetti, a Thomas Bernhard play, in association with Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and The Julliard School in New York.

The Festival has also commissioned the revival of Akram Khan’s Gnosis in which he dances alongside Fang-Yi Sheu. 

Festival favourites Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal returns with her distinct dance theatre Sweet Mambo and Heiner Goebbels returns directing Ensemble musicFabrik in the large scale music-theatre work Delusion of the Fury by American composer Harry Partch.

Kronos Quartet plays live for its new collaboration with composer Aleksandra Vrebalov and filmmaker Bill Morrison, Beyond Zero: 1914 – 1918 using the cinema set-up at the Festival Theatre, alongside a concert in the Usher Hall featuring Glass’s recent collaboration String Quartet No 6 and music by Clint Mansell made famous through the films of Darren Aronofsky.

Flemish director Luk Perceval returns to the Festival after 10 years with his company Thalia Theater staging FRONT, bringing together actors and texts from countries on all sides of the First World War including Remarque’s famous novel All Quiet on the Western Front.

Canadian Stage brings together visual artist Stan Douglas and screen writer Chris Haddock in Helen Lawrence, bringing seduction to the stage with this film noir styled thriller of the 1940s is a ground breaking multimedia production.

Ganesh Versus the Third Reich is a provocative and funny story of the elephant god’s attempt to reclaim the swastika from Nazi Germany, conceived and performed by a unique ensemble of actors with disabilities, which gives voice to social and political issues relevant to everyone. 

Greyfriars early evening concert series returns, opening with Messiaen’s sublime Quartet for the End of Time played by a wonderful ensemble of Steven Osborne, Alban Gerhardt, Antje Weithaas and Jörg Widmann.

The world premiere of Patria brings Paco Peña Flamenco Company back to the Festival with a personal new work in music and song by Peña inspired by the poet, artist, playwright and musician Federico García Lorca.

BBC Radio 3 broadcast 14 concerts live from The Queen’s Hall including Ian Bostridge, Simon Keenlyside, Anna Prohaska, Trio Verlaine and Artemis Quartet and record four in the Usher Hall for future broadcast including the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Maris Jansons, and Philippe Herreweghe and the Collegium Vocale Gent singing Bach’s Mass in B minor.

The Opening Concert brings together three works written in the years preceding the First World War by Schoenberg, Scriabin and Debussy conducted by conductor and composer Oliver Knussen and performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Kirill Gerstein and Claire Booth.

The Usher Hall’s 23 concert season includes Holst’s The Planets, Britten’s War Requiem, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra with Ute Lemper, the first performance of Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony at the Festival, the Festival debut of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra with Erin Wall and the Czech Philharmonic in two concerts the first of which stars Nicola Benedetti and the second mezzo soprano Bernarda Fink. Teatro Regio Torino, making its UK debut, performs William Tell in concert with conductor Gianandrea Noseda. Bernstein’s Kaddish Symphony, dedicated to the memory of President John F Kennedy, is performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and narrated by holocaust survivor and UN Special Envoy Samuel Pisar. The Usher Hall closes with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra playing Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass and Sandakan Threnody by outgoing Festival director and composer Jonathan Mills.

The Festival’s musical ambassadors the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, a 130-strong choir drawn from Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland and now in its 49th year, play a central role in The Opening Concert, The Planets, Britten’s War Requiem, the Kaddish Symphony and the closing concert in the Usher Hall.

The Festival’s substantial series of talks Culture and Conflict delivered by leading thinkers and commentators including Sir Adam Roberts, Professor Margaret MacMillan and Sir Hew Strachan among many others is complemented by a series of films based on stories from times of war including The Burmese Harp, The Tin Drum and Darfur. After the success of last year’s inaugural schools lecture with Jean Kilbourne, this year the event is open to all young people. This year’s speaker at the Festival’s Young People’s Lecture is Sudanese rapper Emmanuel Jal reflecting on his life from child soldier to political activist.

Australian artist Danie Mellor presents Primordial: SuperNaturalBayiMinyjirral at the National Museum of Scotland, drawing on its World Cultures Collection as well as his own indigenous and European heritage.

Participatory dance experts Bal Moderne will immerse audiences in the songs and dances of wartime Europe encouraging everyone to dress up in period clothing and dance in Escaping War.

The Virgin Money Fireworks Concert is the spectacular and popular conclusion to the Festival with a particularly rousing programme of orchestral works this year including Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture performed live by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra to a display launching more than 400,000 fireworks above Edinburgh’s stunning castle.

The Festival’s Young Musician Passport in association with the City of Edinburgh Council gave almost 700 pupils learning an instrument or singing in choirs free tickets to Festival concerts last year. This scheme will be developed in 2014 to offer students of music in the Lothians access to free tickets as well.

The Festival is rolling out a series of 60 podcasts from launch day through to the Festival on its website which offers interviews with artists, musical extracts and insights into all the music events in a new partnership with online music site, Festival SoundBites from Sinfini Music.

The Festival’s commitment to making its performances as accessible as possible by ensuring tickets remain affordable means ticket sales account for approximately one quarter of the organisation’s annual turnover. Presenting a Festival of the scale, ambition and quality of the Edinburgh International Festival costs around £10.5m making the £2.67million it fundraises as a not-for-profit charity from sponsors, trusts, foundations international partners and individuals in 2014 crucial to its success. With fundraising accounting for more than 25% of its total budget annually Edinburgh International Festival is consistently one of the most successful fundraising arts companies in the UK. 

The Festival’s ability to generate such commitment and ongoing support from its range of donors is made possible by the sustained core support of its public funders Creative Scotland and the City of Edinburgh Council.

The Festival’s year round programme of community engagement activities continues to grow and is expected to reach around 8,500 people in 2014. Love in a…. the Festival’s pop-up performance series is set to perform in 13 venues across the city including galleries, museums, bookshops, libraries, gardens and even palaces.

Tickets go on sale for the Festival to Friends and Patrons of the Festival on Wednesday 19 March. Tickets go on sale to the general public from Saturday 29 March. Visit to explore the programme in more detail and book tickets.

Students and young people are able to buy tickets for half price from the opening of booking, and those 26 and under can still access £8 on-the-day tickets for the best available seats during the Festival.

Festival Director Jonathan Mills said: ‘In Festival 2014 we bring together cultures from around the world to present an intense three weeks of intimate and epic theatre, dance, music and opera. 

‘We are working with a number of international co-producing partners to bring performances to the UK from around the world, from New Zealand to South Africa, ensuring the Festival retains its unique mix of artists and work which makes it an unmissable date in the global cultural calendar. 

‘We are delighted to be working with a range of funders and partners to share with you what we believe is a fantastic Festival programme. From our core public funders, Creative Scotland and City of Edinburgh Council, to the many trusts, foundations, international partners and individuals who generously donate sums large and small, the commitment and passion of so many for this Festival remains truly inspiring.

‘I look forward to welcoming audiences from Scotland and around the world to Edinburgh this August to share in compelling stories from artists who are exploring and transcending conflict to create the most sublime and optimistic work.’ 

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said: ‘The Edinburgh International Festival is a wonderful platform for showcasing Scotland’s amazing culture, exceptional talent and our reputation as a creative nation to audiences from around the globe. The exciting and vibrant Festival projects that our Expo Fund is supporting this year offer huge potential to celebrate and promote Scotland’s creative strengths to the world as global attention focuses on us in this landmark Year of Homecoming.’

Edinburgh’s Festivals and Events Champion Cllr Steve Cardownie said: ‘Every year, the Festival continues to bring the very best in the arts from across the world to Edinburgh, greatly enhancing this city’s reputation as the World’s Festival City. 

‘The City of Edinburgh Council is proud to continue its support of the programme and the Festival’s contribution to the reputation of Edinburgh’s arts scene. It is fantastic to welcome in such a diverse programme for 2014 that will span a concert season at the Usher Hall, the official contribution to Culture 2014 in the shape of the South African season, and works that explore Edinburgh’s celebration of the Commonwealth and centenary remembrance of WW1.’

Chief Executive of Creative Scotland Janet Archer said; ‘Jonathan Mills’ final programme for the Edinburgh International Festival inspires and challenges. It offers moments for contemplation, moments that will take your breath away. It promises a soaring conclusion to a hugely successful tenure as Artistic Director of the Edinburgh International Festival. I would like to say thank you to Sir Jonathan for his contribution to the arts as part of Scotland’s heartbeat and this country’s place on the global stage.’



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