Edinburgh International Festival preview: Classical & Opera

The magic words are “live performance.” The 2021 Festival was always going to be dictated by the prolonged, if diminishing, limitations on audience events, but director Fergus Linehen has put together an imaginative and resourceful classical programme.

“We’re limited to about 40 musicians on stage, not a lot of brass and wind, things that aren’t very long”, Linehan says. “But once you get into that, the repertoire potential gets very interesting.”

So there’s no full-blown Mahler or Wagner, and no epic choral blockbusters. In their place is an enticing scaled-down representation of the usual orchestral, opera and vocal, solo and chamber strands. Even the Edinburgh Festival Chorus goes miniature in an exclusive choral concert with only 20 voices.

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Yet amazing substance arises out of practical austerity. Within the orchestral programme, which opens with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Dalia Stasevska in the world premiere of Anna Clyne’s PIVOT and proceeds with a line-up combining Scotland’s home orchestras and major visiting UK bands, look out for upcoming pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason with Vassily Petrenko’s RPO, Stravinsky and Shostakovich from Valery Gergiev and the RSNO, Marin Alsop with the BBC SSO, mezzo soprano Andrea Baker with the idiosyncratic Chineke! Orchestra in Judith Weir’s woman.life.song, and the LSO in Strauss’ Le bourgeois gentilhomme with Simon Rattle.

Isata Kanneh-Mason PIC: Robin Clewley

Opera is inevitably limited, David McVicar’s new version of Falstaff for Scottish Opera at the Festival Theatre being the only staged production. Otherwise, it’s opera-in-concert, with Errollyn Wallen’s new Dido’s Ghost for the Dunedin Consort (premiering in London this weekend), and Dorothea Röschmann in the title role of Strauss’ Ariadne aux Naxos with Sir Andrew Davis and the RSNO.

The ubiquitous Nicola Benedetti’s residency sees her in various guises: with her new Baroque ensemble, in another combo for Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale, and going solo in The Story of the Violin.

And the chamber series? Old College Quad seems the perfect spot for 36 recitals. Starry names abound, from Renée Fleming and the Gringolts Quartet to Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Maxim Emelyanychev with members of the SCO. After last year, who’d have thought?

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