The Edinburgh International Festival, one of the world’s leading arts festivals, has announced the first shows and the main theme for its 2024 edition. The festival, which will run from 9 to 31 August, will explore the concepts of reconciliation and ritual, as well as the history and transformation of the city of Edinburgh.
Reconciliation and ritual: a uniting force for the world
The festival director, Nicola Benedetti, who took charge of the event in 2023, said that she wanted the festival to be a “uniting force” in the face of global conflicts and tensions. She said that the festival would celebrate the practices, traditions, festivities and other “shared experiences” that bring people together across cultures and generations.
She also said that the festival would examine how the rituals and art of romance and seduction have evolved over time, and how they can help to heal the wounds of the past and present. She added that the festival would feature a diverse and inclusive programme of music, theatre, opera and dance, with artists from around the world.
Carmen and other operatic highlights
One of the highlights of the 2024 festival will be the classic French opera Carmen, which will be performed on a replica stage based on Opéra-Comique, where the show was first staged in 1875. The production, which has been running for six years, will star the French opera singer Gaëlle Arquez in the lead role, and will feature the Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Louis Langrée.
The festival will also present four other operas, including a new adaptation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute by the acclaimed British director Simon McBurney, and a revival of Handel’s Rodelinda by the renowned Scottish Opera. The festival will also showcase two contemporary operas: The Second Violinist by the Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy and the playwright Enda Walsh, and The Sunken Garden by the Dutch composer Michel van der Aa and the novelist David Mitchell.
A week-long ‘healing arts’ campaign
The 2024 festival will also be part of a week-long “healing arts” campaign, which will involve the Scottish Ballet and the World Health Organisation. The campaign, which will take place during the festival’s final week, will feature special performances, exhibitions, workshops and talks that will explore the role of the arts in promoting health and well-being.
The Scottish Ballet will present a new work by the Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite, which will blend dance and theatre to tell the story of a group of medieval re-enactors who find themselves in a surreal situation. The World Health Organisation will also host a series of events that will highlight the importance of the arts in addressing the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath.
Celebrating 900 years of Edinburgh’s history
The 2024 festival will also mark the 900th anniversary of the foundation of what is now St Giles’ Cathedral on the Royal Mile, which is considered to be the birthplace of the city of Edinburgh. The festival will explore how the city has evolved and transformed over the last nine centuries, and how it has influenced and been influenced by the arts.
The festival will feature a number of shows that will reflect the history and culture of Edinburgh, such as a new musical by the Scottish composer James MacMillan, based on the life and legacy of the 18th-century philosopher David Hume, and a new play by the Scottish playwright David Greig, inspired by the 19th-century novelist Robert Louis Stevenson. The festival will also present a series of concerts, lectures and tours that will showcase the architectural and artistic heritage of the city.
Experimenting with new formats and venues
The 2024 festival will also continue to experiment with new formats and venues, following the positive response to the innovations introduced in the 2023 edition. The festival will transform its home at The Hub into a green room-style venue, where audiences can mingle with artists and enjoy live music and food. The festival will also offer more opportunities for audiences to sit on beanbags, cushions and other comfortable seating options, as well as to experience immersive and interactive shows.
The festival director, Nicola Benedetti, said that she was looking forward to welcoming audiences and artists to the 2024 festival, and that she hoped that the festival would inspire and delight them. She said that the festival would be a celebration of the power and beauty of the arts, and a testament to the resilience and creativity of the human spirit.