Shakespeare I Theatre I Dance I Opera I Classical I Our Critics' picks
The Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe (and their loyal and growing audience) have annually risen above the chaos created by Edinburgh’s trams project, so EIF 2012 wins a prize for irony with an extension of its programme to Ingliston fully two years before optimists expect the track to open to the airport next door.
With the question of whether dedicated (pre-tram) transport to the venue will be available still to be resolved, the festival has trusted that theatre fans will be resourceful enough to make their own way to the Lowland Hall at the Royal Highland Centre when they are offered an unmissable trio of European works that cannot be accommodated in conventional theatres.
The conversion of the hall, last used for Romanian director Silviu Purcarete’s Faust in 2009, into three dedicated spaces for a total of 17 performances during the first fortnight of the Festival, represents a major expansion of the theatre quotient of this year’s programme, which is also particularly rich in athletic dance.
The 2012 programme has a number of events specifically linked to the Cultural Olympiad - including shows that are part of the RSA’s World Shakespeare Festival that have previously been announced – and the city will host an international summit of culture ministers during the Festival’s first week.
Festival director Jonathan Mills promises “a festival that will take flight,” and an event that is “joyous, uplifting and life-affirming” in a relationship of equals with the Olympic Games.
“The Olympic Games have been three times to the UK, the last time in 1948, when the EIF [born the year before] was still in nappies. 64 years on it is an event of the cultural importance of the Olympics,” he said.
Last year’s programme boasted participants of 38 nationalities, with double that among the polled audience, and 2012 looks set to match that global reach with work from each hemisphere: north, south, east and west. “Edinburgh in August will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Olympics,” Mills added.
Of the events already known, Glasgow-based performance company NVA’s participatory Speed of Light, that will involve 300 runners and 800 audience members at Arthur’s Seat each evening, steals a march on the rest of programme by starting on Thursday August 9.
Polish director Grzegorz Jarzyna’s contemporary Middle Eastern version of Shakespeare, 2008: Macbeth, hansels the Lowland Hall conversion and Russian Dmitry Krymov’s intrepretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with elements of As You Like It, comes from the Chekhov International Theatre Festival to the King’s Theatre.
A newer addition to the World Shakepeare Festival shows in Edinburgh is an RSC staging at the Royal Lyceum of the poem The Rape of Lucrece, performed by singer Camille O’Sullivan with pianist Feargal Murray, directed by Elizabeth Freestone.
Purcarete returns to Edinburgh with a new show created with Irish composer Shaun Davey, based on Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, and transferring directly to the Festival after its premiere in Romania. A third Irish element opens the Lyceum’s share of the festival when Dublin’s Gate Theatre presents Barry McGovern’s one man interpretation of Samuel Beckett’s novel Watt.
The specially created Ingliston venue will also house Theater Basel’s loose adaptation of My Fair Lady, directed by Christoph Marthaler and set in a language laboratory with Scots actor Graham Valentine as Higgins, and a very rare visit to the UK by Ariane Mnouchkine from her Paris base with Theatre du Soleil. That show, The Castaways of Forlorn Hope (Les Naufrages du Fol Espoir) is a spectacle that draws on a posthumous novel of Jules Verne and itself spans the globe and an era.
Chilean playwright and director Guillermo Calderon follows his acclaimed Diciembre, a Bank of Scotland Herald Angel winner in 2010, with a double bill of short works at The Hub, and Tadashi Suzuki’s Japanese company look set to incite some controversy with the classical adaptation Waiting for Orestes: Electra, which puts able-bodied performers in wheelchairs.
Scotland’s contribution to the theatre programme is Wonderland, a re-reading of Lewis Carroll’s Alice novels that will ask questions of our modern relationships with children, from director Matthew Lenton and Vanishing Point.
The Festival’s dance artists are similarly far-travelled. Deborah Colker’s exuberant Brazilians present Tatyana, a version of Eugene Onegin from the female perspective with a soundtrack by Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Terry Riley.
Two programmes from choreographer Angelin Preljocaj’s France-based company use the music of Laurent Garnier (and Beethoven) and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Contemporary Indian dance, drawing on traditional Kathak roots, is represented by Aditi Mangaldas Company, with a double bill of extracts from longer works and Australia’s Leigh Warren + Dancers show two works, including a European premiere of the didgeridoo-scored Breathe.
Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, who brought Deca Dance to EIF 2008, return with Hora, choreographed by the company’s artistic director Ohad Naharin, who is an alumni of Juilliard, the New York dance school as distinguished as its musical counterpart, which visits Edinburgh with work by Jose Limon, Nacho Duato, and Alexander Ekman.
Among all these modern riches, however, the hottest dance ticket is likely to be the four performances of Cinderella by the Mariinsky, with maestro Valery Gergiev in the pit of the Festival Theatre.
The opera programme has a new production of Janacek’s The Makropulos Case from Opera North and Charpentier’s baroque David et Jonathas by Les Arts Florissants and William Christie.
Scottish Opera presents four short operas that build on the success of the three years of Five:15 short operas project to mark the company’s 50th anniversary.
Craig Armstrong has teamed with writer Zoe Strachan to create The Lady from the Sea, while Stuart MacRae collaborated again with Louise Welsh to write Ghost Patrol. It is presented as a double-bill with Huw Watkins’ new Thomas Hardy adaptation In the Locked Room, and the quartet is completed by James MacMillan and Michael Symmons Roberts’ Clemency. All four can be seen in a single day on the last Saturday of the Festival.
The Usher Hall has concert performances of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde from Welsh National Opera and Purcell’s King Arthur from Harry Christophers’ The Sixteen, while the BBC SSO and Ilan Volkov will perform the complete score of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker with the National Youth Choir of Scotland.
The SSO also play Strauss and Beethoven with Donald Runnicles, while the RSNO performs the opening concert (A Mass of Life by Delius) and the closing one (Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast) with the Festival Chorus. As well as the annual Virgin Money Fireworks Concert, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra is conducted by Sir Roger Norrington for Berlioz songs and Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Robin Ticciati in a programme of Mahler, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich.
Gergiev directs the London Symphony Orchestra in a sequence of four concerts of the symphonies and other music of Brahms and Szymanowski with violinists Nicola Benedetti and Leonidas Kavakos, pianist Denis Matsuev, and tenor Toby Spence, and the Cleveland Orchestra returns under Franz Welser-Most for two concerts.
Other popular visitors include the Philharmonia, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Orchestre des Champs-Elysees and the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester. Chamber recitals range from Deborah Voigt in the Usher Hall through the usual series of morning concerts at the Queen’s Hall, to the return of a full international programme at Greyfriars Kirk in the early evening that runs from early music to a new work by James MacMillan.
The earliest music of all will be found on August 22 when the musicians of the Imperial Court of Japan in Tokyo bring the theatrical performance of Gagaku, an orchestral tradition dating back to the 5th century, to the Festival Theatre. That is an unbroken run that the Olympic Games will never be able to beat.
Priority booking for Friends and Patrons of the Edinburgh International Festival is now open. Public booking opens on Saturday March 24. Classical www.eif.co.uk
Our critics' picks BBC SSO/Runnicles, Usher Hall, Sat Aug 11
With two great musical evocations of Nature, Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and Strauss’s colossal Alpine Symphony in the hands of Runnicles and his BBC SSO, this is the quintessential festival concert. Michael Tumelty
Gulliver’s Travels, King’s Theatre, August 17-20
Following his epic version of Faust in 2009, Romanian auteur Silviu Purcarete’s take on Gulliver’s Travels promises a contemporary reinvention of Jonathan Swift’s magical-realist satire in a no-doubt spectacular world premiere. Neil Cooper
In the Locked Room & Ghost Patrol, Traverse Theatre, Aug 30 - Sept 2
Crime opera? Two supremely talented young British composers -- Huw Watkins and Stuart MacRae -- pair up with writers David Harsent and Louise Welsh for what should be a thrill of a double bill. Kate Molleson
Cinderella, Festival Theatre, Aug 30 - Sept 1
Names like Ballet Preljocaj and Batsheva Dance Company stir tingles of anticipation but a new Cinderella by Russia’s Mariinsky Ballet - with Valery Gergiev conducting Prokofiev’s score - takes expectation off the Richter Scale.