Edinburgh's main man bows out on a high note

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The Independent Online

After 15 years in charge, Edinburgh International Festival supremo Brian McMaster will bow out this summer with a programme including some of the greatest names in world culture from the conductor Claudio Abbado to the director Peter Stein.

Announcing his final three-week festival yesterday, Sir Brian said it was always impossible to single out particular events "as everybody finds their own highlights".

But hot tickets are likely to include Abbado conducting Mozart's The Magic Flute and Sir Simon Rattle bringing the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra back to Edinburgh.

There will be new theatrical productions from the controversial Catalan director Calixto Bieito and the playwright Anthony Neilson. And following on from his enormous success last year directing the David Yarrower play Blackbird, which is currently running in the West End, Peter Stein returns with a new production of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. There will be three concerts a night for three nights a week for three weeks in the Usher Hall including the complete set of nine Beethoven symphonies conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras.

Dance events will include Samanvaya, bringing two superstars of different forms of traditional Indian dance together - Madhavi Mudgal, a specialist in the graceful Odissi style, and Alarmel Valli, acclaimed for the dynamic Bharatnatyam genre.

The ballet company led by Suzanne Farrell, a collaborator with the legendary choreographer George Balanchine, is to present the UK premiere of his work Don Quixote. It will be first new production of the ballet for more than 25 years.

Sir Brian said: "The Edinburgh International Festival is one of the most exciting places in the world to experience the performing arts, enabling us to present world-class experiences to the widest possible audience. I don't think there's anywhere in the world where you get this kind of choice."

This is the 60th year of the festival, around which sprang associated festivals including the fringe. When Sir Brian finishes this September, he will have programmed a quarter of all of them. "I think it's time to go after 15 years," he said.

The fund-raisers have already raised more than £2.25 million towards a budget of more than £8 million this year, but he admitted there was always a danger that productions would be cancelled if all the cash could not be found. But he dismissed concerns over the current £1 million deficit, insisting that the festival was already recouping some of that money from Edinburgh productions, such as Blackbird, running elsewhere.

He also denied suggestions that the Scottish Executive was not as supportive of the internationally-renowned festival as it might be.

However, with an eye to the future, backers including Edinburgh City Council and the Scottish Arts Council have commissioned a report to study other festivals which have proliferated on the Edinburgh model and what it will cost for the city to maintain its position.

Sir Brian will be succeeded by Jonathan Mills, who formerly ran the Melbourne Festival in Australia. The Edinburgh International Festival will run from 13 August to 3 September.