Heads Up: Edinburgh International Festival

Beyond the Fringe - omens are good for the ‘original’ festival

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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about? 

The yearly Edinburgh Festival showcasing opera, music, dance, theatre, visual arts, talks and workshops. Not the Fringe Festival.

Elevator pitch

Culture with a twist: Shakespeare with live Chinese heavy metal, a Don Quixote featuring urban dance and slapstick, and the Ensemble musikFabrik, from Cologne, celebrate Frank Zappa as a modernist composer.

Prime movers

A relative newcomer when he was appointed in 2006, Sydney-born opera composer Jonathan Mills is the festival’s current artistic director. Earlier this month he was awarded a CBE.

The stars

Renaissance innovators, the usual suspects of 20th century avant-garde, and left-field modern-day artists. In one venue, Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical studies will be displayed on 60-inch screens and in 3D. In another, Kafka’s Metamorphosis will be re-imagined by Wu Hsing-kuo with the techniques and colours of traditional Peking Opera. Elsewhere, Philip Glass and Patti Smith pay tribute to Beat generation poet Allen Ginsberg and some of Samuel Beckett’s more experimental plays will be performed by actors such as Michael Gambon and Peter Egan.

The early buzz

The Scotsman recently called the EIF “Scotland’s most prominent festival of high culture”. Earlier this month, festival opera singers popped up in unexpected places around the city to sing guerrilla opera. The Daily Record praised this as a winning method of “bringing opera to the people” and building up hype for the festival.

Insider knowledge

The EIF was founded in 1947 to “provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit” and, more specifically, re-energise Scotland’s cultural scene after the Second World War.

It’s great that …

Cultural behemoths from across the ages are being presented alongside more, erm,  outré artists – with a tribute to  “Titties & Beer” man and “modernist,  sophisticated Avant-Garde composer Frank Zappa”.

It’s a shame that …

While the line-up is certainly and gratifyingly international, it’s a bit low on home-grown, Scottish fare this year.

Hit potential

The 2012 festival’s strong performance bodes well – it took a record £2.83m, an increase of  9 per cent on 2011’s box office.

The details

The Festival is held at various venues in Edinburgh between 9 August and 1 September (for tickets and further info, see eif.co.uk).