Over 2,400 artists from 43 nations have been invited to Edinburgh to perform inÂ Director Jonathan Mills’ 8th and final Festival.
A number of themes emerge this year. Exploring the relationship between culture and conflict in the year of the centenary commemoration of the First World War, the Festival presents theatre, dance and music that looks at the work of artists who, in difficult and uncertain circumstances can transcend their surroundings to create work of great beauty and optimism.
Reflecting the Commonwealth Games which will be taking place in Glasgow this summer, the Festival has invited artists from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to make a significant contribution.
There will also be a season of work celebrating the 20th anniversary of democracy in South Africa, Â opening with the world premiere of a new ballet Inala andÂ Handspring Puppet Company is remounting the work which made its name internationally, based on the text by Alfred Jarry and the transcriptions of the South Africaâ€™s Truth and Reconciliation Committee, Ubu and the Truth Commission.
The South African season is the Festivalâ€™s official contribution to the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme and is supported by the Glasgow 2014 Organising Committee, Glasgow Life, and Creative Scotland through National Lottery funding. The South African season is also supported by City of Edinburgh Council and the Department of Arts and Culture, South Africa.
While carefully avoiding anything which explicitly refers to the forthcoming Referendum, epic centerpieces of the Festival come in the form of three plays on three kings of Scotland, The James Plays, by Rona Munro, and Berliozâ€™s masterpiece Les Troyens, staged in Scotland for the first time in over 40 years. Audiences can experience all three plays in one day or spread the works, each filled with vibrant and powerful storytelling, over three days at the Festival Theatre.
The opera programme for Festival 2014 includes Benjamin Brittenâ€™s ground-breaking opera written for television, Owen Wingrave, a co-production between Aldeburgh Music and Edinburgh International Festival. A story of a young manâ€™s moral tussle with his familyâ€™s military history and expectations in a production directed by Neil Bartlett and conducted by Mark Wigglesworth, this is the first time Owen Wingrave will be staged at the Festival.
Greyfriars early evening concert series returns, opening with Messiaenâ€™s sublime Quartet for the End of Time played by a wonderful ensemble of Linlithgow’s Steven Osborne, Alban Gerhardt, Antje Weithaas and JÃ¶rg Widmann.
BBC Radio 3 broadcast 14 concerts live from The Queenâ€™s Hall including Ian Bostridge, Simon Keenlyside, Anna Prohaska, Trio Verlaine and Artemis Quartet and record four in the Usher Hall for future broadcast including the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Maris Jansons, and Philippe Herreweghe and the Collegium Vocale Gent singing Bachâ€™s Mass in B minor.
The Usher Hallâ€™s 23 concert season includes Holstâ€™s The Planets, Brittenâ€™s War Requiem, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra with Ute Lemper, the first performance of Shostakovichâ€™s Leningrad Symphony at the Festival, the Festival debut of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra with Erin Wall and the Czech Philharmonic in two concerts the first of which stars Nicola Benedetti and the second mezzo soprano Bernarda Fink. Teatro Regio Torino, making its UK debut, performs William Tell in concert with conductor Gianandrea Noseda. Bernsteinâ€™s Kaddish Symphony, dedicated to the memory of President John F Kennedy, is performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and narrated by holocaust survivor and UN Special Envoy Samuel Pisar. The Usher Hall closes with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra playing JanÃ¡Äekâ€™s Glagolitic Mass and Sandakan Threnody by outgoing Festival director and composer Jonathan Mills.
The Festivalâ€™s musical ambassadors the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, a 130-strong choir drawn from Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland and now in its 49th year, play a central role in The Opening Concert, The Planets, Brittenâ€™s War Requiem, the Kaddish Symphony and the closing concert in the Usher Hall.
The Festivalâ€™s substantial series of talks Culture and Conflict delivered by leading thinkers and commentators including Sir Adam Roberts, Professor Margaret MacMillan and Sir Hew Strachan among many others is complemented by a series of films based on stories from times of war including The Burmese Harp, The Tin Drum and Darfur. After the success of last yearâ€™s inaugural schools lecture with Jean Kilbourne, this year the event is open to all young people. This yearâ€™s speaker at the Festivalâ€™s Young Peopleâ€™s Lecture is Sudanese rapper Emmanuel Jal reflecting on his life from child soldier to political activist.
Australian artist Danie Mellor presents Primordial: SuperNaturalBayiMinyjirral at the National Museum of Scotland, drawing on its World Cultures Collection as well as his own indigenous and European heritage.
Participatory dance experts Bal Moderne will immerse audiences in the songs and dances of wartime Europe encouraging everyone to dress up in period clothing and dance in Escaping War.
The Virgin Money Fireworks Concert is the spectacular and popular conclusion to the Festival with a particularly rousing programme of orchestral works this year including Tchaikovskyâ€™s 1812 Overture performed live by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra to a display launching more than 400,000 fireworks above Edinburghâ€™s stunning castle.
Keeping Costs Down for Students
Presenting a Festival of the scale, ambition and quality of the Edinburgh International Festival costs around Â£10.5m making the Â£2.67 million it fundraises as a not-for-profit charity from sponsors, trusts, foundations international partners and individuals in 2014 crucial to its success.Â The Festivalâ€™s ability to generate such commitment and ongoing support from its range of donors is made possible by the sustained core support of its public funders Creative Scotland and the City of Edinburgh Council.
The Festivalâ€™s year round programme of community engagement activities continues to grow and is expected to reach around 8,500 people in 2014. Love in aâ€¦. the Festivalâ€™s pop-up performance series is set to perform in 13 venues across the city including galleries, museums, bookshops, libraries, gardens and even palaces.
Tickets go on sale for the Festival to Friends and Patrons of the Festival on Wednesday 19 March. Tickets go on sale to the general public from Saturday 29 March. The Festivalâ€™s Young Musician Passport in association with the City of Edinburgh Council gave almost 700 pupils learning an instrument or singing in choirs free tickets to Festival concerts last year. This scheme will be developed in 2014 to offer students of music in the Lothians access to free tickets as well.Â Students and young people are able to buy tickets for half price from the opening of booking, and those 26 and under can still access Â£8 on-the-day tickets for the best available seats during the Festival.Â
Visit eif.co.uk to explore the programme in more detail and book tickets.
Festival Director Jonathan Mills attempted to sum it up, saying, â€˜In Festival 2014 we bring together cultures from around the world to present an intense three weeks of intimate and epic theatre, dance, music and opera.
â€˜We are delighted to be working with a range of funders and partners to share with you what we believe is a fantastic Festival programme. From our core public funders, Creative Scotland and City of Edinburgh Council, to the many trusts, foundations, international partners and individuals who generously donate sums large and small, the commitment and passion of so many for this Festival remains truly inspiring.’
Chief Executive of Creative Scotland Janet Archer added, â€˜Jonathan Millsâ€™ final programme for the Edinburgh International Festival inspires and challenges. It offers moments for contemplation, moments that will take your breath away. It promises a soaring conclusion to a hugely successful tenure as Artistic Director of the Edinburgh International Festival. I would like to say thank you to Sir Jonathan for his contribution to the arts as part of Scotlandâ€™s heartbeat and this countryâ€™s place on the global stage.â€™