That knowledge we all share will be explored and expanded during this year's Edinburgh International Festival in a programme that illustrates how technological advance has driven and supported artistic ambition and creativity for hundreds of years.
The development of musical instruments is just one pathway on this journey, with the Festival taking advantage of the presence in the city of Edinburgh University's Russell collection of musical instruments, and harpischordist Christophe Rousset performing on some of them. In another concert Nicola Boud explores the development of the clarinet from Mozart's time, while the Hebrides Ensemble revisits the composer's music for the Glass Harmonica and the Arditti String Quartet performs the player piano music of Conlon Nancarrow.
How modern technology and thinking can reinterpret classic repertoire will be illustrated in the Festival's opening weekend with the return of the Opera de Lyon, who brought screen and stage together in their Porgy and Bess, with a brand new staging of Beethoven's Fidelio by video artist Gary Hill. Scottish Opera and The Opera Group combine ops on Olga Neuwirth's version of Berg's Lulu, updated to the civil rights struggle in the US and featuring jazz singers Angel Blue and Jacqui Dankworth. Australia's Barry Kosky also returns to Edinburgh double bill from Oper Frankfurt that teams Purcell's Dido and Aeneas with Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle.
Ground-breaking theatre is the business of the Manhattan's Wooster Group, whose Hamlet revisits John Gielgud's 1964 production with Richard Burton, made at the height of his fame in the year of his first marriage to Elizabeth Taylor. Such was the demand for tickets, the show was filmed and screened for two days only in 2000 screens across the US – the prototype of a practice familiar from major opera houses and theatres today. The company's combining of the original footage with a live reconstruction will be presented alongside a programme of videos of its own back catalogue. Also combining screen and stage, Chile's Teatrocinema completes the trilogy of works it brought to Edinburgh in 20109 with Histoire d'amour.
Another comprehensive immersive package during EIF 2013 is Beckett at the Festival, which brings to the stage works the Irish writer created on the page and for TV and radio, in productions from the Gate and Pan Pan Theatres in Dublin, which comes with a day-long programme of screenings of Beckett films.
Composer Philip Glass brings his ensemble to Edinburgh with his music theatre response to Jean Cocteau's 1946 film La Belle et la Bete and, for one performance only, a collaboration with poet and musician Patti Smith that celebrates the great beat poet Allen Ginsberg, The Poet Speaks. Musician and theatre-maker Meredith Monk follows her EIF 2010 Herald Angel-winning Songs of Ascension with the European Premiere of On Behalf of Nature and New York's Bang on a Can All-stars look back on a century of recorded sound through new work created by and with an alphabetical list of 11 contemporary composers headed by Laurie Anderson. Ensemble musikFabrik of Cologne explores the compositions of Frank Zappa alongside work by Cage and Varese, as part of an Usher Hall programme that combines contemporary with the classical, and is explored by Michael Tumelty below.
This year's EIF once again features a substantial commitment to the visual arts. From Korea the internationally celebrated practice of Nam June Paik is showcased at the Talbot Rice gallery, in an exhibition that revisits some of the work in his first solo show, in Wuppertal in 1963, his forward-thinking approach to technology a huge influence on Scotland's Douglas Gordon amongst others. Also from Korea comes a new work from choreographer and director Hyo Jin Kim, combining live performance with archive and digital film in Madame Freedom, while work by artist Hyung Su Kim will be shown outside the Usher Hall and at the Festival Theatre in Media Skins, an evolving archive of the Festival as it happens. At the other end of the technological continuum, the ground-breaking anatomical studies of Leonardo da Vinci in the Royal Collection will be in an exhibition The Mechanics of Man, at the Queen's Gallery, displayed alongside contemporary x-rays and MRI scans that confirm how ahead of his time the artist was.
Another singular artist returns to Edinburgh from the East with a one-man staging of Kafka's Metamorphosis. Wu Hsing-kuo's one-person King Lear was a sensation of the 2011 Festival, and in this world premiere he will combine contemporary video techniques with the vocabulary of traditional Peking opera. The Beijing People's Art Theatre makes its debut at the Festival with a staging of Shakespeare's Coriolanus that marries classical costuming with a soundtrack provided by two Chinese heavy metal groups, Miserable Faith and Suffocated.
The dance programme this year includes a mini-festival co-curated with Scottish Ballet that sees a packed four days of work by the company alongside the Gelabert Azzopardi Companyia de Dansa and Scottish Dance Theatre (SDT) and includes work by SDT's new artistic director Fleur Darkin and Scottish Ballet's new artistic director Christopher Hampson, and choreography by the company's founder Peter Darrell as well as a world premiere by Canadian founder of La La La Human Steps, Edouard Lock.
Choreographer Jose Montalvo returns to Edinburgh for the first time since 2007 with his video-enhanced dancehall re-imagining of Cervantes, Don Quichotte du Trocadero and the LA Dance Project makes its first UK appearance with a triple bill of classic work by William Forsythe, setting Gavin Bryars's Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet and Merce Cunningham, with music by La Monte Young and designs by Robert Rauschenberg, and a new piece by the company's founding choreographer and director Benjamin Millepied, best known for his work on the film Black Swan.
With two Usher Hall concerts for each of Scotland's orchestras, as well as the SCO's regular soundtracking of the Virgin Money Fireworks at the end of the Festivities, and another busy year for the Edinburgh Festival Chorus and a Faure Requiem from chorus master Christopher Bell's ever-impressive National Youth Choir of Scotland, home-grown music-making is well represented.
Edinburgh's own Grid Iron Theatre Company makes another appearance in the International Festival programme with Leaving Planet Earth, a show written and directed by Catrin Evans and Lewis Hetherington that will transport the audience from Edinburgh International Conference Centre to a new world created at the International Climbing Arena at Ratho.
For that show, audience members will be asked for their memories of Old Earth as part of the experience, and for a new composition by American Tod Machover, entitled Festival City and to be played by the RSNO on August 27, the interactive Festival is asking the public to contribute sounds, via its website at eif.co.uk/festivalcitymusic.
For now however, the appropriate response for this first look at EIF 2013 is a thoroughly old-school round of sustained applause.
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