An epic five-and-a-half-hour opera and a play in which the Hindu god Ganesh reclaims the swastika from the Third Reich are just some of the highlights of this year’s International Festival.
This year’s showcase cultural exposé promises to be one of the widest and most varied ever – with a range of performances to suit all tastes.
With war chosen as the overriding theme to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, many of the works will no doubt be challenging, said outgoing Festival director Jonathan Mills.
Launching the 2014 programme this morning, he said: “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. We are working to bring performances from around the world, from New Zealand to South Africa, ensuring the Festival retains its unique mix, which makes it an unmissable date in the global cultural calendar.”
More than 2400 artists from 43 countries will take part in the annual celebration, which will run from August 8-31 .
More than 300 of those performers will take part in the Mariinsky Opera production of Les Troyens, which tells of the siege of Troy, at the Festival Theatre. At five-and-a-half hours, the opera includes a supper break and is one of the largest touring productions yet to visit the Capital.
The Festival Theatre also welcomes Rona Munro’s James plays, in which Taggart’s Blythe Duff and The Killing’s Sofie Grabol are joined by James McArdle, Andrew Rothney and Jamie Sives as Kings James I, II and III of Scotland. Produced by the National Theatre of Scotland, the trilogy charts the life of each monarch.
One of the more unusual offerings this year comes in the form of Ganesh Versus The Third Reich, at the Royal Lyceum, in which the elephant-headed god travels through Nazi Germany to reclaim the swastika, an ancient Hindu symbol of good fortune.
Other highlights include Ubu and the Truth Commission, from Handspring Puppet Company, creators of Joey, the Warhorse; an immersive dance experience at The Hub, in which audiences will be encouraged to dress in wartime fashions as they attend a tea-dance; virtuoso violinist Nicola Benedetti performing at the Queen’s Hall; and a lecture from South Sudanese rapper Emmanuel Jal, a one-time child soldier.
Mr Mills added: “I look forward to welcoming audiences from Scotland and around the world to Edinburgh this August to share in compelling stories from artists who are exploring and transcending conflict to create the most sublime and optimistic work.”
For the first time, the Festival will also feature a piece of work composed by Mr Mills himself, who steps down from his post after this year’s event, his eighth Festival.
The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra will play his oratorio Sandakan Threnody, which honours the British and Australian soldiers who lost their lives in the North Borneo campaign of the Second World War, as part of a concert at the Usher Hall on August 30.
The annual Virgin Money Fireworks Concert will bring this year’s event to a traditional close, with a programme including Tchaikovsky’s ever popular 1812 Overture.
Chief executive of Creative Scotland Janet Archer said: “Jonathan Mills’ final programme 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.”
Tickets go on sale on March 29 from 0131-473 2000 and www.eif.co.uk.
THREE TO SEE AT THIS YEAR’S EVENT
THE JAMES PLAYS, Festival Theatre, August 8-22
Rona Munro’s trilogy of plays, right, produced by the National Theatre of Scotland, charting the lives of three Scottish kings, James I, II and III, promises to be the highlight of this year’s Festival.
LES TROYENS, Festival Theatre, August 28-30
For sheer spectacle, with more than 300 people on stage, this will be hard to beat. Performed in French by a Russian company, it does last five-and-a-half hours, however.
BAL MODERNE, THE HUB, August 15-18
Dress up in the fashions of the 40s. This immersive production finds audience members joining the cast to experience a wartime tea dance. Set to songs of the period, you will also be taught dances from the turbulent Europe of the time.