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Binoche heads up Edinburgh International Festival

French actress Juliette Binoche will appear at the Edinburgh International Festival. Picture: Getty

French actress Juliette Binoche will appear at the Edinburgh International Festival. Picture: Getty

  • by BRIAN FERGUSON
 

OSCAR-winner Juliette Binoche has been confirmed for Fergus Linehan’s first Edinburgh International Festival programme.

The French actress, who won the Academy Award for her role in The English Patient, will be appearing in the Greek tragedy Antigone next year.

However audiences in London will get to see the actress in Belgian director Ivo van Hove’s new production months before it is staged in Edinburgh next August.

The show, which the EIF is co-producing, will be at the Barbican in March as part of an extensive tour which will also take in Luxembourg, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Paris and Recklinghausen, in Germany, and New York.

Binoche, 50, whose other films include Chocolat, Three Colors: Blue & Damage, will be one of the few Oscar winners to appear at Scotland’s flagship festival, joining the likes of Burt Lancaster and Peter Ustinov.

Linehan, who has been given a contract for five festivals, will officially take over from Australian impresario Sir Jonathan Mills as director in October, but has been working on the event part-time since his appointment last May.

Linehan has been based himself in Australia for the last decade, running the Sydney Festival and heading up the music programme at Sydney Opera House. He is also a former director of the Dublin Theatre Festival.

Also in next year’s line-up will be the Budapest Festival Orchestra, who will be performing a semi-staged production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

Linehan hinted that the festival would be taking less risks on new, untried work in future and revealed he would not be continuing the themed approach to the event which Sir Jonnathan has deployed since his first festival in 2007.

Linehan revealed other forms of music would be strongly embraced from next year in the festival, which is world-renowned for its classical concerts, including folk, jazz and electronica, with new, more intimate venues being lined up for festival for the first time.

Linehan, a regular visitor to the Fringe and EIF during this career, said: “I’ve always looked to this festival as a place where major artists at the height of their powers made major artistic statements and performances.

“My ambition is to put the artist at the very centre of this festival - artists who are creating their best work, in the best possible way. Because of that desire I’m not going to work from a thematic approach. It’s just not my style.”

Linehan, who admitted there were “financial challenges” over the staging of large-scale operas at the festival, said he was thinking of creative ways to “weave” the art form through all three weeks of his programme while sustaining the quality that the event is renowned for.

The new director said the “most exciting” part of his programming so far had been planning the Usher Hall concert series, and despite dangling the prospect of different styles of music being showcased there in future, he notably praised the loyalty of the venue’s core audience.

He added: “There is not an orchestra, or a soloist or a singer who is not banging at the door to come and play here. The ambition for anyone in classical music of any note is to play here, the affection is quite extraordinary and it opens up all sorts of exciting possibilities. However there is a role for the festival to evangelise and advocate for classical music beyond its core and loyal audience.

“At the same time, as a 21st century multi-genre arts festival it is important that we take a more consistent and comprehensive approach to other musical genres, to reflect the way cultural attitudes have changed and also to reflect where there is important work being made. But I should say that that is very much in addition to what we currently do rather than instead of anything that we currently do.”

 

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