EIF seek fresh audience from Mogwai appearance

Mogwai will play the Edinburgh International Festival next year. Picture: Steve Gullick
Mogwai will play the Edinburgh International Festival next year. Picture: Steve Gullick
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SCOTTISH indie-rock favourites Mogwai will appear at the Edinburgh International Festival under the latest moves by its director to attract new audiences and extend its programming.

The veteran band will appear in a series of shows next August performing a live version of a soundtrack they created for a film about the bombing of Hiroshima.

The group, who have previously recorded soundtracks for a film on French footballer Zinedine Zidane and spooky French drama The Returned, will accompany a screening of documentary Atomic, by award-winning Edinburgh filmmaker Mark Cousins.

Stuart Braithwaite, the frontman and guitarist of Mogwai, who celebrate their 20th anniversary this year, has described the group’s work on Atomic as “the thing we’ve done that we’re most proud of”.

The band’s show is one of the first to be confirmed for the 70th annual festival, the second to be programmed by director Fergus Linehan. Also in his EIF line-up will be one of the world’s biggest-selling opera stars of the last two decades, a series of shows marking the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death and a celebration of the great American playwrights.

The EIF will stage a lavish gala with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra performing Schoenberg’s cantata Gurrelieder, to bid farewell to Edinburgh-born Donald Runnicles as he steps down as chief conductor.

There will also be a collaboration between Portishead’s Adrian Utley, singers Becky Unthank and Karine Polwart, Scots folk band Lau accordionist Martin Green and Bafta-winning animators Will Anderson and ­Ainslie Henderson.

Mogwai’s appearance at a yet-to-be-confirmed venue has been revealed in the wake of huge demand to see fellow Glasgow outfit Franz Ferdinand and American singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens this August.

Linehan, who pledged to expand the range of music on offer at the event when he was appointed two years ago, also revealed that there will be an expansion of the music programme on offer at The Hub, where late-night cabaret shows were introduced this summer.

The programme included From Scotland With Love, a collaboration between indie-folk star King Creosote and film-maker Virginia Heath, which featured archive footage from around Scotland.

Linehan insisted much of his debut programme had been “business as usual,” but said he wanted to strike a balance in future between “a sense of continuity, combined with the idea that the festival is somewhere where there are always new ideas and approaches emerging”.

He added: “What was most successful this year was when there was a sense of collaboration and there was a project that wouldn’t normally happen or was very fresh.

“One of the lines we’re going to take in relation to music is around Scottish artists in particular, doing collaborative projects with other Scottish artists or internationally.

“By broadening out the genres this year we in no sense interfered with the centrality of our classical music programme.”

The festival confirmed that Italian opera star Cecilia Bartoli, who was named one of the all-time great mezzo-sopranos last year, will make her EIF debut.

The multi-Grammy winner will lead the cast of a new version of 19th century Bellini opera Norma, reworked to take place in occupied France during the Second World War. She will revive her role in a Salzburg Festival production getting a UK premiere at the EIF next August.

She said: “It is a joy to be making my opera debut at the prestigious Edinburgh International Festival with these performances. I look forward to sharing our new vision of Bellini’s masterpiece with the festival public. It’s a role that represents a milestone in my career and a production that’s very dear to my heart.”

Ken Walton, The Scotsman’s opera critic, said: “It’s great news that the EIF is programming an opera from the rich late-19th century bel canto Italian tradition, as that’s been missing from recent festivals.

“But to have such a consummate star as Cecilia Bartoli in the iconic title role – one famously defined for 20th-century audiences by Maria Callas – is the icing on the cake.”

Tickets for Bellini’s Norma go on sale on 11 November. All other shows will go on sale in April.