Our critics pick their highlights of Edinburgh International Festival, from an epic take on Macbeth to an illuminated night-time run on Arthur’s Seat
THEATRE - JOYCE MCMILLAN
EDINBURGH is famed as a city with a small mountain at its heart, but never before has Arthur’s Seat been transformed, as it will be during this Festival, into a living work of art, a night landscape lit by the moving bodies of local teams of runners – and walking groups of audience members – all carrying their own light sources, and all sculpting the hillside into mighty new shapes of light and darkness. Created by the Glasgow-based land art company NVA, and co-funded by the National Lottery’s Olympic Legacy Trust, Speed Of Light promises to be the most spectacular event of the 2012 Edinburgh Festival, and a huge percentage of the places for running and walking participants have already been taken up, months in advance.
The impact of the Olympics can be traced throughout this year’s massive EIF theatre programme, which also features three shows presented jointly with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2012 World Shakespeare Festival. In a production that reflects this year’s celebratory EIF mood – light, laughter, hope, and youthful energy – the acclaimed Russian director Dmitry Krymov visits Britain for the first time with his production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, inspired, like all his work, by the collective imagination of theatre design students who first create the magical space in which the play will unfold. The RSC itself presents the magnificent singer Camille O’Sullivan in a solo performance of The Rape Of Lucrece, and the great TR Warszawa from Poland open up a newly converted Lowland Hall at Ingliston with their 2008:Macbeth, set during a contemporary Middle Eastern conflict.
It’s a measure of the ambition of this year’s theatre programme, though, that these major Shakespeare productions are almost eclipsed in scale by a range of other shows from legendary European directors. The great French director Ariane Mnouchkine makes her first ever Edinburgh appearance, at Ingliston, with Les Naufragés du Fol Espoir (Aurores), a mighty Jules-Verne-style adventure set just before the First World War; and Silvio Purcarete of Romania, whose massive Faust thrilled audiences at Ingliston in 2009, brings his new version of Gulliver’s Travels to the King’s Theatre. There’s the Swiss director Christophe Marthaler’s Meine Faire Dame, a delicious and hilarious musical reflection on My Fair Lady, set in a school language lab; there’s an Orestes from Japan, a new pair of short political dramas from Chile’s Guillermo Calderon, and a new take on Alice In Wonderland from leading Scottish company Vanishing Point. No overarching theme this year, in other words: but a theatre programme of dazzling quality, featuring two brand-new purpose-built temporary spaces at Ingliston, and a round half dozen of the world’s greatest theatre-makers, at their most playful and ambitious.
IF YOU SEE ONE THING…
Love it or hate it, no-one in Edinburgh in August will be able to avoid having an opinion on the great participatory land-art show Speed Of Light, which runs from 9 August through to the end of the Festival. Might as well sign up for a ticket, strap on your hiking boots, and find out for yourself how it feels to become part of a living light-sculpture, on the capital’s iconic hillside.
DANCE - KELLY APTER
‘WE WANT this year’s festival to be uplifting,” said Jonathan Mills, as he unveiled his programme. He could achieve that with the dance programme alone: I’m looking forward to seeing all of the seven companies he’s invited.
I’ve a particular soft spot for Deborah Colker, the Brazilian choreographer who injects boundless theatricality into everything she creates. Her EIF show, Tatyana, transports Alexander Pushkin’s 19th-century novel, Eugene Onegin, to present day Brazil. Expect energetic yet sensual dancing, a larger-than-life set, and Colker’s usual blend of physicality and psychology.
Colker also uses interesting pointe work in her choreography, something we’ll get lots of in the Mariinsky Ballet’s Cinderella. Better known on these shores by its Soviet name, the Kirov, the company is regarded as one of the finest classical ballet troupes in the world, so will do well at the box office. Choreographer Alexei Ratmansky is a former director of the Bolshoi, so comes from good stock, but he’s also resident choreographer at American Ballet Theatre, and could bring a twist to the fairytale.
Four years after its last Festival visit, Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company makes a welcome return. In 2008 it brought a “greatest hits” package to get us up to speed, now it’s the science fiction-esque Hora, with music from Wagner and Star Wars. Choreographer Ohad Naharin is perhaps best known here for his joyful Minus 16, created with Nederlands Dans Theater – a company that links him to Leigh Warren, also heading to Edinburgh this August.
Warren danced with NDT and many others before starting his own company, Leigh Warren and Dancers, and his brand of music-led contemporary dance may be an unknown quantity in Scotland, but looks well worth checking out.
Both Naharin and Warren completed their training at New York’s Juilliard School, so it will be interesting to see what the current students look like. Fresh, young and dynamic, Juilliard Dance ticks Mills’s box of having a new generation of talent in each of the Festival genres.
Which just leaves Ballet Preljocaj, performing three works by one of the most important figures in late 20th/early 21st century contemporary dance, Angelin Preljocaj. And the return of Aditi Mangaldas, last seen at the 2001 Edinburgh Fringe, who creates an almost tap-like Indian dance, using her dancers’ bodies to make music. What a line-up.
IF YOU SEE ONE THING…
Make it the lavish staging and technical excellence of the Mariinsky Ballet’s Cinderella, with Prokofiev’s beautiful score played live by the Mariinsky Orchestra.
CLASSICAL AND OPERA - KEN WALTON
WITH an Usher Hall programme framed by Delius’ Mass of Life and Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, an opera programme that showcases UK regional companies Opera North, Welsh National Opera (WNO) and Scottish Opera and a spread of young talent right across the board, from the top-notch Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester and European Youth Chamber Orchestra to the Festival debut of Nicola Benedetti, it’s clear that this year’s music programme has something to say about both the British and the young.
Not that Jonathan Mills has got himself landlocked by themes. The music programme is more about robust experiences than forced connections. Staged opera is imaginative, if still a tad undernourished, given that a new production of Janacek’s Makropulos Case by Opera North, Les Arts Florissant’s transferral from July’s Aix-en-Provence Festival of Charpentier’s David et Jonathas, and Scottish Opera’s quadruple offering of short new operas represent a series of three (out of a possible four) weekend operatic bursts. Concert performances of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde by WNO and Purcell’s King Arthur by The Sixteen take up the slack.
But it’s certainly encouraging to see Scottish Opera back in Festival business. Three brand new operas – The Lady from the Sea by Craig Armstrong, pictured above right, Huw Watkins’ In the Locked Room and Stuart MacRae’s Ghost Patrol – and the Scots premiere of James MacMillan’s Clemency mark an exciting summation of the company’s groundbreaking Five:15 project.
Scotland’s orchestras feature evenly in the Usher Hall series – the RSNO opening and closing the orchestral programme under Sir Andrew Davis (a veteran Delius interpreter) and David Robertson respectively. Donald Runnicles and the BBC SSO conquer Strauss’ Alpine Symphony, while the SCO under Robin Ticciati present a tantalising mix of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and Shostakovich’s Symphony No 14.
The ratio of UK to visiting orchestras is reasonably balanced – from the Cleveland Orchestra (playing Lutoslawski and Smetana with the highly original Lars Vogt on piano) and Budapest Festival Orchestra (Mahler 5) to a blockbuster Brahms and Szymanowski symphony series by the LSO under Valery Gergiev, and a chance to hear what all the fuss is about regarding the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s bright young conductor Andris Nelsons.
The daily Queen’s Hall morning series is, predictably, as safe as houses; and there will be much cheering at the return of the popular Greyfrairs early evening series – a cosy mix of early and exotic world music – which opens with the glorious sounds of Gabrielli performed by His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts and Concerto Palatino.
IF YOU SEE ONE THING…
The Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester made its memorable debut at the Edinburgh International Festival in a glorious 1999 performance of Mahler’s Symphony No 7 under Claudio Abbado. They’re back this year with the same work under another renowned Mahlerian, Daniele Gatti.
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Friday 24 May 2013
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Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
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