Edinburgh International Festival: Opera Highlights

Scotsman critic David Kettle selects the best opera at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival

Iestyn Davies PIC: Chris Sorensen for The Wall Street Journal
Iestyn Davies PIC: Chris Sorensen for The Wall Street Journal

Breaking the Waves

Alongside the desire and disillusionment of Eugene Onegin, there’s another tale of passion gone awry in the Edinburgh International Festival’s second staged opera for 2019. Lars von Trier’s movie Breaking the Waves provoked waves of its own in 1996 with its uncompromising storyline of a pious woman who believes her increasingly extreme sexual encounters with strangers will save the life of her injured oil rig worker husband. Composer Missy Mazzoli’s operatic reimagining scored highly at its Opera Philadelphia premiere in 2016, and gets its first European staging here. It’s not an easy watch, but Mazzoli’s deeply lyrical score brings a hard-edged opulence to von Trier’s story. And following Scottish Opera and Opera Ventures’ striking Greek two years ago, this new collaboration – directed by Bristol Old Vic’s Tom Morris – should provoke and fascinate in equal measure.

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King’s Theatre, 21, 23 & 24 August


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The Edinburgh International Festival’s four-year Wagner Ring in concert cycle comes to what will surely be a roof-raising close with his epic portrayal of the Apocalypse, reuniting performers who made such staggering impacts earlier on – chief among them magnetic US soprano Christine Goerke, who returns as Valkyrie Brünnhilde.

Usher Hall, 25 August

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Orfeo ed Euridice

Countertenor Iestyn Davies, pictured, is the big draw in Gluck’s heartbreaking opera on a love that even death can’t extinguish, which gets a concert performance. Davies sings the musician who descends to the underworld in the desperate hope of resurrecting his beloved wife Euridice (Sophie Bevan). With crack period ensemble the English Concert, directed by Canadian Bernard Labadie, it should be an exceptional performance.

Usher Hall, 15 August

Manon Lescaut

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Powerhouse conductor Donald Runnicles makes a welcome return to his native city with Berlin’s Deutsche Oper, where he’s music director. Sondra Radvanovsky sings the title role of Puccini’s femme fatale in this concert performance.

Usher Hall, 22 August

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West Side Story

The famed musical updating of Romeo and Juliet to post-war New York gets two outings under Bernstein devotee Sir John Eliot Gardiner, who conducts the SCO and a hand-picked young cast.

Usher Hall, 5 & 6 August

Forget Me Not

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Don’t overlook these two intimate performances of barely known Yiddish operetta songs from the Komische Oper’s Barrie Kosky and two of the company’s singers – sure to be a revelation.

The Lyceum, 16 August