Tom Waits threatens legal action against Edinburgh Festival show

Picture: Getty
Picture: Getty
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A lavish French “equestrian operatic ballet” due to be staged during the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh Festival could be blocked due to a legal challenge from the American singer-songwriter Tom Waits.

The veteran rock musician wants to halt a show by an avant-garde Parisian theatre company which uses 30 live horses and 16 of his songs in its latest show.

Waits claims he would never have allowed his material to be used for the production, insisting that it “violates the integrity of my work” and that his songs are being “exploited”.

But its founder, circus performer Bartabas the Furious, has denied any wrongdoing, is adamant that official permission was sought through Waits’ agent and has claimed that 400,000 in euros was paid for the rights to the show.

Waits, 66, failed in an initial bid to stop the production – Acheve Bien Le Anges (They Shoot Angels, Don’t They?) – going ahead in Paris last month. And he has lodged a second claim for 500,000 in euros for using his songs without permission.

The legal challenge could thwart plans to transfer it to Scotland in August, when both the Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe will be marking their 70th birthdays.

The French company, Theatre Equestre Zingaro, took a smaller-scale production to London’s Sadler’s Wells venue last spring.

In a lengthy statement setting out his opposition to the outfit’s new show, currently running in Paris, Waits said: “These songs were not found like driftwood on the beach: they come from good families.

“The songs have value, my name and image have value, my voice has value. The value is cultural, artistic and personal, as well as economic. Often, things that are rare (or even medium rare) are more valuable.

“I turn down all commercial product endorsement offers and rarely collaborate or lend my name or work to other endeavours. It is my choice to get paid or not to get paid. And that value has been taken and exploited for the profit and promotion of Bartabas’s career and for his religious and political ideology, which neither the songs nor I chose to express. In short, it violates the integrity of my work.”