Nicola Benedetti’s announces her first Edinburgh International Festival programme

Festival Director Nicola Benedetti launches the 2023 Edinburgh International Festival – 4-27 AUGUST 2023

Festival Director Nicola Benedetti launches the 2023 Edinburgh International Festival © Mihaela Bodlovic

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General booking for the 2023 International Festival opens on Wednesday 3 May, with tickets currently on-sale to Members and supporters.

New Festival Director Nicola Benedetti’s first Edinburgh International Festival programme is revealed.

Benedetti sets out a vision for the 2023 Festival to deliver the deepest possible experience, with the highest quality performances, to the broadest possible audience.

Following the Festival’s 75th anniversary, under the direction of a new Festival Director, this year’s programme is themed around the question ‘where do we go from here?’.

Comprising 295 separate events from 4-27 August, Edinburgh International Festival 2023 features work from over 2000 local and international artists from across 48 nations.

Edinburgh International Festival unveils an expansive programme of world-class music, opera, dance and theatre to take place from 4 – 27 August 2023. This year marks the first Festival under the direction of new Festival Director, Nicola Benedetti, one of today’s most influential classical music artists.

With a bold ambition to reimagine how we experience and interact with live performance, Benedetti has set out a vision for the Festival to deliver the deepest possible experience, with the highest quality performances, to the broadest possible audience. 

Inspired by the literature of Martin Luther King Jr, and his belief in people’s capacity to unite, the 2023 Festival is charged by the question, ‘where do we go from here?’, this expansive programme of 295 events, asks us to consider how the transformative power of the arts can have the most impact on society at this moment.

Three central themes underpin each week of the Festival: community over chaos, hope in the face of adversity, and a perspective that’s not one’s own – inviting audiences to consider ideas of identity, community and resilience as they experience Edinburgh this summer. Benedetti says, ‘After we have celebrated 75 years of our Festival, we now enter into a new phase of redefining, together, where we go next’.

Diversity, discovery and internationalism are at the heart of the Edinburgh International Festival, this year welcoming artists from across 48 nations and 6 continents to our stages. The 2023 International Festival also hosts three major artistic residencies with internationally renowned orchestras as part of ongoing ambitions to increasingly engage with the city of Edinburgh and reduce the amount of travel required for the international artists. This year’s Festival also offers an unprecedented emphasis on a deepened audience experience, through performances for young people and families, participatory events, in-conversations, and intimate performances in informal performance spaces.

Highlights of the programme include:

Two exceptional programmes from powerhouse dance company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The performances showcase recent works from the company’s dynamic choreographers as well as classic repertoire by founder, Alvin Ailey, including one piece featuring local Scottish dancers alongside the professional company.

An exciting new series in The Hub, the International Festival’s home on the Royal Mile. In a first for the International Festival, the space will be taken over by afternoon and evening informal events and concerts that speak directly to the 2023 Festival’s themes. Performers include: Palestinian singer Nai Barghouti, Scottish violinist Catriona Price, the Aga Khan Master Musicians celebrating music from the Silk Road trade route and a special Festival commission inspired by Martin Luther King Jr’s visionary final speech, from Detroit-born bassist and house musician of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Endea Owens.

The Budapest Festival Orchestra, led by conductor Iván Fischer, in residence at the International Festival across four captivating concerts. A highlight performance will be Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony presented in an informal performance in the round, with the audience seated on beanbags, scattered amongst the orchestra. The concerts also include an all-Hungarian programme of works with Sir András Schiff and the NYCOS National Girls Choir, Weber and Mendelssohn, a concert celebrating three 19th-century Romantics and an in-conversation between Fischer and Nicola Benedetti exploring orchestras of the future and the orchestra’s ongoing commitment to community.

Three UK premieres from genre-defining stars of international theatre: Barrie Kosky’s The Threepenny Opera from the Berliner Ensemble, Brazilian film and theatre director Christiane Jatahy’s Dusk, based on Lars Von Trier’s Dogville, and Tiago Rodrigues’ As Far As Impossiblerecounting the everyday lives of humanitarian workers in war zones.

One of Latin America’s greatest orchestras, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, in residence at the International Festival. Bringing its famed young ensemble of players aged 18-25, they are joined by conductors Gustavo Dudamel and Rafael Payare for a series of performances, including music from across the Americas and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

An epic new production of Pina Bausch’s acclaimed choreography of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, with a cast of over 30 dancers from 14 African countries, presented in a double bill with duet common ground[s] from Germaine Acogny and Malou Airaudo.

The London Symphony Orchestra in residence, comprising a programme centered around hope: a concert of choral works from Szymanowski and Brahms; a cinematic programme featuring Principal Guest Conductor Gianandrea Noseda, Messiaen’s sensational Turangalîla Symphony; and an intimate insight into the musical world of the London Symphony Orchestra, presented with an on-stage conversation from Nicola Benedetti and Sir Simon Rattle.

The most substantial programme of Korean artists in the International Festival’s 76-year history, in celebration of 140 years of diplomatic relations between Korea and the UK. Performances include the KBS Symphony Orchestra in their first UK appearance; International Festival debuts from multi-award-winning performers, pianist Yeol Eum Son and violinist Clara-Jumi Kang; first prize winners of the International Mozart Competition, the Novus String Quartet; and a fusion of ancient Korean storytelling, K-pop and Greek tragedy in Trojan Women by the National Changgeuk Company of Korea. Trojan Women features original music by K-pop producer and Parasite and Squid Game composer Jung Jaeil, in collaboration with renowned pansori master Ahn Sook-sun.

Immersive works The Lost Lending Library from Punchdrunk Enrichment, welcoming young people aged 6-11 (and their parents or carers) into a magical traveling library; and FOODan enchantingly absurd dinner party from New York City-based theatre-maker Geoff Sobelle. The uniquely Scottish play, the National Theatre of Scotland’s Thrown, from writer Nat McCleary under director Johnny McKnight comes to the Festival as part of its world premiere season, and all three productions will run for the entire duration of the Festival.

Operatic works including a concert performance of Tannhäuser, the only major Wagner opera that has not been performed at the International Festival. Wagner expert and Edinburgh local Sir Donald Runnicles conducts the Deutsche Oper Berlin, featuring American tenor Clay Hilley making his role debut as Tannhäuser; Mozart’s enchanting masterpiece The Magic Flute performed in concert by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Chorus; and a radical retelling of Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle presented by Theatre of Sound, reimagining the relationship between Bluebeard and Judith as a husband and wife facing the reality of living with dementia whilst celebrating their long love.

A contemporary dance programme featuring Phaedra/Minotaur, a sensational double bill from opera and theatre director Deborah Warner and choreographer Kim Brandstrup, with Benjamin Britten’s stirring final cantata Phaedra, and the return of maverick duo Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s acclaimed L-E-V, with the final installation of their acclaimed Love Cycle Trilogy, Chapter 3: The Brutal Journey of the Heart.

Ogresse, the UK premiere of a new musical journey of myth and song from three-time Grammy Award-winner Cécile McLorin Salvant. Cécile also performs in the Usher Hall for a special concert fusing jazz with blues, theatre and storytelling.

World-leading orchestras are centre stage in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall, including: the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Chorus with a concert performance of The Magic Flute, featuring a newly commissioned narration read by Thomas Quasthoff. 

A contemporary music programme featuring electro-pop icon Alison Goldfrapp; sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar; founding member of The Velvet UndergroundJohn Cale; indie chart-topper Jake Bugg; Japanese folk artist Ichiko Aoba; award-winning Irish neo-folk group Lankum; Grammy Award-winning bluegrass band Nickel Creek; and experimental electronic icon Matthew Herbert.

Intimate morning recitals at The Queen’s Hall featuring pianists Mao Fujita, Leif Ove Andsnes and Bertrand Chamayou; vocal recitals from singers including Julia Bullock with pianist Bretton Brown, Iestyn Davies, Catriona Morison; and chamber music from the Isidore String Quartet, the Amatis Trio, Jupiter Ensemble and more.

Nicola Benedetti, Festival Director, Edinburgh International Festival said: ‘“Where do we go from here?” At a time of huge global change and challenge, we will hear powerful and diverse perspectives of artists from across the world. 

‘Edinburgh International Festival has long been dedicated to advocating world-class performing art and innovating new ways to bring it to audiences. I am immensely proud of this year’s programme, and look forward to expanding on this legacy in 2023’.

Selected Special Events

The Opening Celebration welcomes everyone to take part in the fun, with a free celebration of professional and community music-making from artists from across Scotland in Princes Street Gardens.

On the final weekend of the Festival, the garden at Charlotte Square will be opened to the public as a musical oasis, where a soundscape of recorded music from the International Festival classical music concerts can be enjoyed in a collective listening experience for all.

As part of the International Festival’s ongoing commitment to accessibility, the 2023 programme includes 25 accessible performances, including nine audio described performances, six BSL interpreted performances, seven captioned performances and two relaxed performances.

In 2023, the Edinburgh International Film Festival returns as a bespoke film programme hosted by the Edinburgh International Festival. The film programme celebrates the work of exceptional local and global filmmakers and ensures the flame of EIFF burns bright for future generations of passionate cinema fans. The full programme will be announced in June.

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