Huge lineup for International Festival's 70th anniversary

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Celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2017, Edinburgh International Festival has launched a bumper programme, with world class artists from across the globe and special celebratory events to mark this special year.

Here's a look at just some of the many highlights in this year's extraordinary cultural selection. 

Fergus Linehan, Festival Director said:

Since 1947, the International Festival has extended an invitation from the people of Scotland to people all over the world, to join us in celebrating the unparalleled creativity and talent that great artists bring to Edinburgh. In our 70th anniversary year, it feels more important than ever perhaps, that we celebrate the founding values of the International Festival and that through a shared celebration of artistic excellence and cultural exchange, we ‘provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit’ and to continue to welcome the world to our city.

The Standard Life Opening Event

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Following the massive success of light-and-sound spectacular Deep Time last summer, and the Harmonium Project twelve months earlier, the Festival has plans for an even more ambitious starter in 2017 - the Standard Life Opening Event: Bloom

Bloom takes its name from the words of the International Festival's first chair, Sir John Falconer, who spoke in 1947 of the newly established festival as "a platform for the flowering of the human spirit". 

Full details won't be revealed until 26 June, but the plan is for "an epic, outdoor, public art event" utilising "an entire precinct of the city" to celebrate 70 years of transformation in Edinburgh. Organisers are promising "immersive environment of colour, texture, sounds and sensations... a magical night garden". 

Celebrating 70 years

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As one of three Edinburgh Festivals marking 70 years of excellence this summer, the International Festival will present a range of very special events to celebrate. These include: 

  • The 70th Anniversary Concert, combining live music from Shostakovich, Vaughan Williams, Mahler, Ravel and others, with archive footage and interviews to look back at the past 70 years. Martyn Brabbins conducts the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
  • Spirit of '47, jointly-curated with the British Council, a season of talks, performances and screenings examining global citizenship and collaboration. Full information on Spirit of '47 will be revealed in May 2017.
  • Festival Firsts, in which Sir James MacMillan will conduct the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in performing three pieces, each of which was premiered at the Festival. These include Tippet's Fantasia concertante on a Theme of Corelli, Walton's Symphony No. 2 and MacMillan's own Epiclesis.
  • The International Festival at 70, an online portal of stories, footage and unique perspectives from the history of the Festival. The site will be ready to explore from May 2017, and the public are encouraged to share their own stories and memories using

Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs:

The Edinburgh International Festival has entertained, delighted and provoked audiences for 70 years, helping to shape Scotland’s identity as progressive, welcoming and world-renowned in its delivery of high-quality arts. Countless countries have followed our example ever since to develop their own festivals.
As in 1947, the International Festival’s inclusive ethos towards international artists and audiences is just as important and relevant today. This year, the Scottish Government’s EXPO fund will support local theatres and scriptwriters to examine the origins of European drama, a timely theme considering the discourse taking place in many European countries right now. Cultural expression is more important than ever in times of economic or political uncertainty.

A wide selection of great culture

Beyond the 70th celebrations of course, there's the rest of the Festival's ever-excellent programme of world-class arts and culture, and with a brochure of over 120 pages, there's far too much to possibly sum up in a single article. However, here's our attempt to pick out just some of the highlights of the summer. 

Opera, Theatre and Dance

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Fans of opera will be thrilled at the prospect of experiencing work from three of the greats, with productions of Verdi's Macbeth, Puccini's La Bohème (both from Teatro Regio Torino) and Mozart's Don Giovanni (Budapest Festival Orchestra).

They'll be joined by modern classic, Greek, based on Steven Berkoff's retelling of the Oedipus myth, concert performances of Wagner's Die Walküre (see below) and Britten's Peter Grimes, and a rare opportunity to experience the three surviving operas of Claudio Monteverdi in the Monteverdi 450 project.

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Theatre is also strongly represented, with Alan Ayckbourn's new two-part piece, The Divide (The Old Vic), Oresteia, Zinnie Harris's reimagining of Aeschylus's drama (Citizens Theatre), absurdist farce Rhinoceros by Ionesco (Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh/DOT Theatre), and the masterful Krapp's Last Tape, delivered by Beckett-experts Michael Colgan and Barry McGovern.

Other work includes Meet Me at Dawn (Traverse Theatre Company), Flight (Vox Motus) and Martin Creed's Words and Music, a special residency from the Turner-Prize winning artist.

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Top class dance at this year's Festival will include Nederlands Dans Theater performing three contrasting pieces, Rain (Rosas dance company) choreographed by Anne Teresa De Keersmacher and set to the minimalist music of Steve Reich, and Yo, Carmen (Maria Pagés Company) radically reimagining Bizet's flamboyant heroine.

The dance programme also includes family piece, Vuelos (Aracaladanza) and Blak Whyte Gray (Blue Boy Entertainment), performers from both of which will also be involved in the International Festival's educational workshops programme. 

Classical and Contemporary Music

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Classical music always has a firm place at the heart of the International Festival programme, and 2017 is no exception with great works performed by the world's finest musicians.

The programme gets underway with the Opening Concert, featuring the music of Hayden (Symphony No. 94 'Surprise') and Mendelssohn (Symphony No. 2 'Lobgesang') performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and conducted by Pablo-Heras Casado.

Sir Andrew Davis will conduct the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and singers Simon O'Neill, Christine Goerke and Bryn Terfel in a concert performance of Wagner's Die Walküre, with Edward Gardner leads Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus in Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes.

British bass baritone Terfel also performs Schubert, Schumann and Brahms with pianist Malcolm Martineau, while Nicola Benedetti plays more Brahms with Budapest Festival Orchestra. And there are performances of Elgar, Grieg, Sibelius, Walton, Berlioz, Bernstein, Copland and many more across a truly packed selection.

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Contemporary music is well represented too, with highlights including "Queen of the sitar", Anoushka Shankar, American singer PJ Harvey, incredible singer-songwriter Benjamin Clementine, and a brand new 50-song set, performed across two concerts, from The Magnetic Fields.

Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales collaborate on Room 29, using music, dance, film and theatre to tell the story of Hollywood's famous hotel room, while four special late-night concerts consider the bard of Scotland in Robert Burns: Chains and Slavery, and The Music of the Incredible String Band pays homage to the influential 60s and 70s act. 

The Virgin Money Fireworks Concert

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No Edinburgh August would be complete without the International Festival's always-epic closing concert in Princes Street Gardens, as the Scottish Chamber Orchestra perform great music, perfectly synchronised with tens of thousands of fireworks bursting overhead in the sky above Edinburgh Castle. 

This year, Clark Rundell with conduct the SCO in performing music by Sir James MacMillan, Tchaikovsky and Maxwell Davis, as the Edinburgh International Festival's 70th anniversary programme comes to a triumphant close. 

Edinburgh International Festival runs from 4-28 August and priority booking for Friends and Patrons opens on a staggered basis from 15 March. Full public booking opens on Saturday 25 March at 10am. For more information and to book, please visit our Festival page.

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