Edinburgh International Festival 2007 - Programme Review

Festival Theatre
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

'Edinburgh in August is not just the most thrilling, beguiling, preposterously enjoyable place on Earth; it is also wonderfully addictive.'
      - The Daily Telegraph

60th Birthday - Time to Celebrate
2007 will be a very special celebration year for the Edinburgh International Festival. Founded in 1947, it celebrates its 60th birthday and now welcomes a new Director, Jonathan Mills, taking the baton from Sir Brian McMaster after a successful tenure of 15 years - a flourishing period which has seen the EIF develop into "a beacon of cultural excellence".

Mr Mills is a composer from Sydney, Australia, a former director of the Melbourne Arts Festival and sees his new role as the best job he could wish for. "Edinburgh is one of the great cities," he said after his appointment, "its Festival means something to the whole world."

The formal launch of the 2007 programme on 28 March was an inspiring event. Mr Mills was joined by Edinburgh Lord Provost, Lesley Hinds, Euan Aitken, Leader of the Edinburgh City Council and Minister for Culture and Tourism, Patricia Ferguson, to represent the collaborative support of city and nation. As the Lord Provost commented, "There is nowhere more exciting to be than Edinburgh in August - and with more than two million visitors every year, it's important to the whole of Scotland."

As Jonathan Mills commented on announcing the programme, "Festivals are a gift, a special gift from a city to itself, to its citizens, to its visitors, to its future to its very soul".

The Festival is a time when Edinburgh comes alive and as part of the Festival Season, beside the Fringe, Book, Jazz and Film Festivals, the Edinburgh International Festival, is seen as the bedrock of it all, of the city, nation and global village.

Bigger, Bolder, More Colourful
The 2007 programme has a bigger, bolder and more colourful design which is most attractive. The director explained that he wanted a true, collective, connective festival, based on strong ideas and innovation. It was important to present a series of performances around a central artistic theme and take people on a specific cultural journey.

The inspiration for his first Edinburgh Festival began with Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, celebrating its 400th anniversary. A special restaging of the spectacular production premiered in Barcelona (2002) will be presented by La Capella Reial de Catalunya. Then follow the cultural trail with a concert performance of Stravinsky's Orpheus, and a dance piece Canto/Pianto choreographed by Trisha Brown. The American Repertory Theatre also performs a contemporary music-theatre version of Orpheus by Rinde Eckert, featuring rock music, opera and narrative.

Monteverdi will also be featured in a series of his Madrigals, performed by baroque ensemble, Concerto Italiano and eight singers in the magnificent Greyfriars Kirk.

More Highlights

Candide - The opening concert is Candide by Leonard Bernstein, where the energy of Broadway musical meets the satirical wit of Operetta. With Sir Thomas Allen as Dr. Pangloss, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, under Robert Spano, this will be a lively start to the Festival. Among seven world premieres, will be Cologne Opera's new production of Capriccio by Richard Strauss.

The Bacchae (Euripedes) - As part of an imaginative and wide ranging theatre programme, a major highlight will surely be The Bacchae (Euripedes) in a new version by David Greig, renowned for his work with his company Suspect Culture. Award winning Scottish film and stage actor, Alan Cumming (see graphic), a Tony award-winner for Cabaret, stars as Dionysus in this National Theatre of Scotland production.

Mabou Mines DollhouseThere is also international drama from the Vienna Schauspielhaus and the Wooster Group. Ibsen's classic feminist portrayal of a subordinate wife, Nora, is given a radical new perspective in Mabou Mines Dollhouse, set in a dolls house on stage, where the male characters are played by small actors (under 5ft) in contrast to a cast of tall women.

Scottish Ballet return after 5 star performances of Balanchine in recent years, this time presenting a world premiere by Stephen Petronio and a revival of Fearful Symmetries by Ashley Page, winner of an Olivier award, 1994.

Orchestral Music Programme - There's a host of world class performers and conductors again this year - Neeme Jarvi, Mariss Jansons, Alfred Brendel, Toby Spence, Dame Evelyn Glennie, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra with Michael Tilson Thomas, Jane Irwin, Tokyo String Quartet, Yuri Bashmet, John Williams and the Bavarian Symphony Orchestra - "for my money one of the best in the world" (Jonathan Mills).

Tiger Lillies (pictured here) and Theatre Cryptic These two companies, regulars at the Fringe Festival have been invited to take part in the EIF this year - the outrageous burlesque band, Tiger Lillies make their tribute to Monteverdi, and also Theatre Cryptic, with a European Premiere, Optical Identity.

Visual Arts are also represented in the Festival with a major exhibition entitled Jardins Publics, to be created around the city centre. The inspiration for this comes from the last line of Voltaire's Candide, "We must cultivate our garden."

The National Galleries of Scotland will independently stage its own superb summer series of arts exhibitions, running between June and September. These include a major retrospective of Andy Warhol, featuring 200 pictures, photographs, prints sculpture and films, selected in collaboration with the Warhol museum in Pittsburgh and the Anthony d'Offay gallery, London; a celebration of the nude in art, The Naked Portrait, (June to September) and Picasso on Paper - drawings, linocuts and etchings.

The Finale is the Bank of Scotland Fireworks concert on Sunday 2 September at 9pm. The journey and connections continue with echoes of the first night featuring Bernstein's overture to Candide as part of an American show - Gershwin, Barber, Copland and Sousa.

More Information
This year's Edinburgh International Festival runs from 10 August to 2 September. The Edinburgh International Festival 2007 Programme information and ticket booking is available via www.eif.co.uk.

Vivien Devlin, British Guild of Travel Writers
March 2007

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