In 1947, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh noted that the aim of the first annual Edinburgh International Festival was to “provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit”.
70 years on, the festival has achieved that and so much more. Edinburgh is now regarded as the world’s Festival City and new festivals pop up in the Scottish capital every year, fuelling that reputation.
However, despite the new events that come and go, the International Festival will always have a home here. It kicks off the festival month of August with an impressive programme of theatre, dance, music, opera and more to venues across the city from 4-28 August.
In celebration of the festival’s special anniversary, the multi-award winning 59 Productions have created Bloom, a free outdoor spectacle that will transform St Andrews Square into a magical night garden through light and sound installations, to kick the festival off on 4-5 August.
Artists from all over the world head to Edinburgh for the festival, bringing their stories, music and talent and the 2017 edition will be no different. The 70th anniversary programme, the third from Director Fergus Linehan, includes major artists including Mercury Prize winner PJ Harvey, Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker with Chilly Gonzalez, The Magnetic Fields, British bass-bariton Sir Bryn Terfel, playwright Alan Ayckbourn, world-renowned conductor Riccardo Chailly, violinist Nicola Benedetti, Sitar star Anoushka Shankar and a celebration of the music of Edinburgh’s own The Incredible String Band.
Leading Scottish festival companies The Citizens Theatre, Royal Lyceum Theatre and the Traverse Theatre Company will present works – including the world premiere of new work Meet me at Dawn from the Traverse Theatre Company – which “consider the origins of European drama from a contemporary perspective”. Each of the companies will examine the fragility of human relationships, society and civilisation.
Other theatre highlights include the world premiere of The Divide from one of the country’s best-loved playwrights Alan Ayckbourn, performed by The Old Vic. The darkly satirical love story is presented in two parts at the King’s Theatre over two weeks.
An expanded opera programme features nine operas that will appeal to both seasoned fans and opera newcomers alike. Highlights include classic operas Puccini’s La bohème, Verdi’s Macbeth, and Mozart’s Don Giovanni, while concert performances in the Usher Hall feature world class singers including Christine Goerke, Stuart Skelton, Erin Wall and Karen Cargill.
One of the world’s greatest dance companies, Nederlands Dans Theatre, returns to Edinburgh after an 11 year absence, and hip-hop lands at The Lyceum Theatre with East London’s Boy Blue Entertainment. Boy Blue also performs at Castlebrae Community High School which is turned into a performance venue for the first time, the culmination of a three-year residency between the International Festival and the school. Senior pupils have been learning about the skills required to run an event venue and will support the Festival team to deliver the performances.
The International Festival will once again be brought to a spectacular conclusion on Monday 28 August with the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert, when over 400,000 fireworks will burst into the sky above Edinburgh Castle, choreographed to live music from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.