OUR near neighbour France, the virtuosity of young people from Scotland and around the world, and two female composers from Edinburgh will all be showcased in this year’s Edinburgh International Festival programme.

The two women are Thea Musgrave, celebrating her 90th birthday and now resident in Los Angeles, and Anna Meredith, fifty years her junior, who will reinvent her Scottish Album of the Year award-winning album Varmints with the Southbank Sinfonia as part of a season of concerts in Leith Theatre and also soundtrack the year’s free opening public event with Five Telegrams, marking the centenary of the end of the First World War.

That initiative of festival director Fergus Linehan, who has extended his contract to run the event to 2022, returns to its first location at Festival Square, outside the Usher Hall, and is again animated by 59 Productions and sponsored by Standard Life Aberdeen. This year, however, it is presented in partnership with the BBC Proms, who will televise an alternate version from London’s Royal Albert Hall for its opening on July 13.

Said Linehan: “It is a project that came out of a long discussion with the BBC Proms who asked if we might work with them on a piece that would open both the Proms and the International Festival. Anna Meredith, Edinburgh composer of symphonic classical music and electronic music, is writing a five movement piece for the BBC Symphony Orchestra which is based around five telegrams in the Imperial War Museum, dealing with the nature of communication and censorship.”

The event will also incorporate the participation of young people, who will be costumed by the Edinburgh College of Art and is expected to be seen by an audience of 15,000 to 20,000 people.

In Scotland’s Year of Young People, there will be a specific showcase for youth performers, including a strand of 5pm concerts in the Usher Hall preceding the later evening events.

“One of the things we wanted to look at was the question of really virtuosic young musicianship,” said Linehan. In the year that he relinquishes his job as chorus master of Edinburgh Festival Chorus, the creator of the National Youth Choir of Scotland (NYCoS), Christopher Bell, will see that ensemble among the Festival’s resident artistes. NYCoS sing both at the opening concert in the Usher Hall, of Haydn’s Creation with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and conductor Edward Gardner, and at the closing one, Mahler’s Eighth, the “Symphony of a Thousand”, with Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Orchestra.

The choir also has its own 5pm concert in the Usher Hall, in a series that will see visits by the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, which includes representatives of 24 countries in North, South and Central America, the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, and the orchestra of the prestigious Colburn School in Los Angeles. Scotland’s young virtuosi will also be represented by the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, with guest singer Dianne Reeves, and the NYOS Symphony Orchestra, whose programme under conductor Paul Daniel will be of music from 1918 and the end of the Great War.

Edinburgh will also hosts the Eurovision Young Musician Competition Final concurrent with the Festival, with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra accompanying the concerto finalists.

The SSO, under conductor Martyn Brabbins, will also play Turbulent Landscapes by Thea Musgrave, a work from beginning of this century that was inspired by the art of JW Turner. That concert will also include Bell’s Festival Chorus performing the Sea Symphony of Vaughan Williams, which they sang to great acclaim in the orchestra’s season a few years ago.

Other younger musicians in the EIF programme include Scottish mezzo Catriona Morison, who has leapt to international recognition since winning Cardiff Singer of the World and violinist Nicola Benedetti, who will be part of a concert on the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein, August 25, when the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will be conducted by one of the maestro’s last protége’s, conductor Marin Alsop. That centenary celebration will also include a performance of the Second Symphony of Robert Schumann, which Bernstein worked on with Alsop, and conducted himself at the 1950 Festival, as well as a programme of chamber music at the Queen’s Hall and Bernstein tunes as part of the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert, played by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Other visiting orchestras include the Oslo Philharmonic with Vassily Petrenko and the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle, making a rare visit to Edinburgh, for the first time since he conducted the Berlin Philharmonic there in 2006 and at the end of his first year at the helm of the LSO. In the latest instalment of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Mark Elder will conduct the Halle and stellar line-up of soloists in Siegried and Sir Andrew Davis, who conducted Die Walkure last year, returns to the podium with the RSNO for Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel with the participation of the NYCoS Girls Choir.

A production of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera with music theatre singers and Les Arts Florissant, conducted by William Christie, is one of three productions from the Theatre de Bouffes du Nord in Paris, the theatrical laboratory established in the 1970s by director Peter Brook.

Brook himself, now 92, brings The Prisoner, which he has written with Marie-Helene Estienne and uses the sort of international cast he pioneered with his version of the Mahabharata, which came to Glasgow 30 years ago. The theatre also brings an adaptation by Alice Birch (screenwriter of the recent Lady Macbeth) of the Marguerite Duras novel La Maladie de la Mort, which will be narrated by French film star Irene Jacob. It is directed by Katie Mitchell in her EIF debut.

“Katie Mitchell one of those directors whose work had never been presented at the Festival,” said Linehan, “and La Maladie de la Mort is about a man who has reached a subhuman state of despair and his abusive relationship with a women who visits him each night. It is told from the perspective of the woman.”

The theatre programme will also include a revival of David Greig two-hander “play with songs” Midsummer, re-invented for the cabaret space at The Hub for a cast of seven, including musicians, and giving visitors to the capital the opportunity to take a journey through Edinburgh with table service. Stewart Laing and Pam Carter, co-creators of the National Theatre of Scotland’s Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner, return with The End of Eddy, a piece for a young adult audience based on French writer Edouard Louis’ book about growing up gay in post-industrial France.

“I don’t specifically work thematically,” said Linehan, “but while last year we had a very Italian opera programme, this year it happens to be very French and it is actually quite a French year the way things have fallen. Our two opera companies are Theatre de Champs-Elysees in Paris with a new production of Barber of Seville and Lyon Opera doing a production of La Cenerentola, both light-hearted Rossini operas, although The Barber of Seville is an elegant and serious reading of that.”

Dancer and choreographer Akram Khan, who was a very youthful performer in Brook’s Mahabharata, adds to the marking of the end of the First World War with his last ever solo show, Xenos, about Indian soldiers recruited to the British cause. It comes in a package with Kadamati, a Khan work about the Armistice, which will be performed by hundreds of dancers outside the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the time of the cultural summit in the Scottish Parliament.

Other highlights of the dance programme include Wayne Macgregor’s Autobiography, Michele Anne de Mey’s collaboration with film-maker Jaco van Dormael on Cold Blood, which is one of the early attractions in a packed King’s Theatre programme, and Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s L-E-V Company with Love Cycles, combining their OCD Love and Love Chapter 2 shows for the first time, with music by DJ Ori Lichtik.

As well as the contemporary music programme at Leith Theatre, Light on the Shore, full details of which will be revealed in May 2, Linehan continues his policy of presenting non-classical music with concerts by John Grant, St Vincent and the Grit Orchestra in Edinburgh Playhouse.

Priority booking for Friends of EIF opens for the 2018 festival on Saturday, and the box office is open to everyone on March 24.