News - Edinburgh International Festival

The Edinburgh International Festival has unveiled its 2018 programme...

Press Release

The International Festival runs Friday 3rd to Monday 27th August and this year's event welcomes 2,750 artists from 31 nations to perform in Scotland’s capital city. It will attract visitors from all over the world, with audiences expected to travel from over 80 nations to be part of Edinburgh’s global celebration of culture.

The 2018 programme features a mix of some of the very best contemporary artists and ensembles from across world. Artists include celebrated classical musicians with conductor Sir Simon Rattle, soprano Christine Goerke and violinist Nicola Benedetti, leading UK choreographers Akram Khan and Wayne McGregor, theatre makers Peter Brook, Katie Mitchell and Geoff Sobelle, American musicians and singer-songwriters St. Vincent and John Grant, actors Anna Deveare Smith and Irène Jacob, writers David Greig, Alice Birch and Édouard Louis, and contemporary Scottish musicians from Mogwai to King Creosote and special projects with ensembles including the Dunedin Consort and the GRIT Orchestra.

Major international companies include Paris’s legendary Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord – resident company at the Festival with three new works, the Théâtre des Champs Elysées and Opéra de Lyon. World leading orchestras include the London Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. 

Celebrating Scotland’s Year of Young People and reflecting on the centenary of the end of the Great War, the Standard Life Aberdeen Opening Event: Five Telegrams is a unique collaboration between Scottish composer Anna Meredith and digital artists 59 Productions. Inspired by materials found in the Imperial War Museum.

The International Festival returns to Leith Theatre for the first time in 30 years with a season called Light on the Shore with Edinburgh Gin Seaside, celebrating Scottish popular music and Leith as a creative hub. The season brings together bands, orchestral ensembles and curators including Mogwai, Django Django, Karine Polwart, Lau, Neu! Reekie!, Hidden Door and Celtic Connections. 
In 2018 the International Festival shines a light on young artists and features over 600 young musicians from 50 nations in performance at the Usher Hall. A new initiative - Free for Under 18s in 2018 - invites young audiences to enjoy these concerts free of charge.

Scottish artists and ensembles featured include the Dunedin Consort, Hebrides Ensemble, Nicola Benedetti, Stewart Laing and Pamela Carter, National Theatre of Scotland, David Greig and Gordon McIntyre, Scotland’s national orchestras – the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and rising star mezzo soprano, Catriona Morison.
International artists visit from all over the world, with performers from nations including Sri Lanka, Rwanda, USA, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Poland and Hungary. 
Major co-commissions from the International Festival include Xenos by Akram Khan Company, The Beggar’s Opera and La Maladie de la mort from Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, HOME by Geoff Sobelle and Wayne McGregor Company’s Autobiography

Fergus Linehan, Festival Director said: ‘One of the joys of working in the Festival is the opportunity to welcome the world to our country and to our city – and then to have a great party! In 2018 there is a particular emphasis on working collaboratively both with Scottish based artists and ensembles and with our international partners to make work from all over the world. We are celebrating different cultures, showcasing Scottish culture, and telling many stories through many different languages.’

Standard Life Aberdeen Opening Event: Five Telegrams

The 2018 International Festival begins with a free, outdoor performance celebrating Scotland’s Year of Young People and marking the centenary of the end of the Great War. The Standard Life Aberdeen Opening Event: Five Telegrams is a unique collaboration between Anna Meredith, one of Scotland’s most exciting contemporary composers, and Tony Award-winning artists 59 Productions. Inspired by communications found in the Imperial War Museum which document the experience of young soldiers at the end of the War, the piece explores ideas of propaganda, censorship and technology, and their startling resonance across 100 years to the present day. Five Telegrams comprises a new work for orchestra, projected digital artworks on the Usher Hall and is experienced by the audience from Festival Square. The event will be developed with contributions from Edinburgh based young people, who will co-design elements of the work and participate in it, with over 250 young people taking part in the performance. The Standard Life Aberdeen Opening Event: Five Telegrams is co-commissioned by the BBC Proms and 14-18 Now – the piece will also form part of the Opening Night of the BBC Proms on 13 July. Sponsored by Standard Life Aberdeen, supported by Scotland's Year of Young People through Event Scotland, and produced in association with the University of Edinburgh.


At the heart of theatre programme, is Paris’s legendary Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, which is resident company at the 2018 International Festival, bringing two contrasting new theatre works to Edinburgh. Its former Artistic Director Peter Brook remains one of the most influential and important theatre makers of the past century, continuing to make work in a career spanning seven decades. His new work The Prisoner asks profound questions about justice, guilt and retribution. Another of the UK’s most significant theatre makers, Katie Mitchell makes her International Festival debut, with her adaptation of Marguerite Duras’s 1982 novella La Maladie de la mort, using live cinema and theatre to explore this psychological thriller from a female perspective for the first time.

The National Theatre of Scotland returns to the International Festival with a new production of David Greig and Gordon Macintyre’s hugely popular chamber musical, Midsummer. Directed by Birmingham Rep’s Roxana Silbert, this Edinburgh-set, alternative rom-com follows the fortunes of Bob and Helena across a wild weekend, with this new version expanding and enlarging the action with a live band. Midsummer is in residence at International Festival HQ, The Hub throughout August.

American actor and illusionist Geoff Sobelle invites the audience to a magical party in HOME, his new show co-commissioned by the International Festival. Sobelle and his ensemble build and populate a house on stage, deftly blending illusion, choreography and live documentary, in a meditation on the experiences that make a house a home.

Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot remains one of the most iconic and significant plays of the 20th century and Druid Theatre’s staging, directed by Tony Award-winning Garry Hynes, has been hailed as one of its greatest contemporary productions. Galway-based Druid is one of the world’s leading ensemble theatre companies, last visiting the International Festival in 2005 with an acclaimed staging of all six plays by J. M. Synge.

Anna Deavere Smith’s Notes from the Field is an arresting solo performance that examines what has been dubbed the US’s ‘school-to-prison pipeline’, predominantly affecting young African-Americans. Drawing on interviews with more than 250 individuals, acclaimed actor and theatre maker Deavere Smith – whose screen credits include The West Wing and Nurse Jackie – investigates what she regards as a ‘broken’ justice system in context of the wider Black Lives Matter movement and the civil rights crisis of modern America.

The theatre programme also features two works for younger audiences. The End of Eddy is a premiere from London’s Unicorn Theatre, the UK’s leading theatre for young audiences, and Scotland’s Untitled Projects’ team of Scottish director/designer Stewart Laingand writer Pamela Carter. Adapted from the novel by French writer Édouard Louis, it recalls the adolescence of a young gay man growing up in the cultural wilderness of post-industrial, rural France, in an exploration of sexuality, class and power. Hocus Pocus is a dance theatre piece for young people and their families, from Lausanne-based choreographer Philippe Saire. A universal tale, it tells the story of two young brothers and is set to the evocative music of Greig’s Peer Gynt suite.


Two operas by Rossini bookend the International Festival, in new and contrasting productions from two of France’s leading opera houses. Paris’s Théâtre des Champs-Elysées bring Laurent Pelly and Jérémie Rhorer’s starkly elegant The Barber of Seville. Stripping back the work to honour the composer’s original orchestration, the production features Rhorer’s period ensemble Le Cercle de l’Harmonie and a cast including Michele Angelini as Almaviva and Peter Kálmán as Bartolo.

Opera de Lyon presents the Cinderella story La Cenerentola in a sumptuous production from Norwegian director Stefan Herheim. Repositioning Cinderella as a leading lady determined to find love on her own terms, Herheim’s colourful and mischievous production matches the effervescent wit found in Rossini’s music, with an exceptional cast of international singers featuring Canadian mezzo soprano Michèle Losier in the title role and American tenor Taylor Stayton as Prince Ramiro.

In addition to two theatre pieces from the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, is a new conception of John Gay’s classic The Beggar’s Opera from renowned director Robert Carsen and musical director William Christie. The production strips back the piece to its ballad inspired origins, featuring an ensemble cast of music theatre voices and the period instruments of Les Arts Florissant.

In the Usher Hall, a performance of Wagner’s Siegfried continues the International Festival’s concert Ring Cycle, now in its third year. Following the huge success of 2017’s Die Walküre, two of its outstanding cast members return to sing in Siegfried. Soprano Christine Goerke - currently enjoying stellar notices in Elektra at New York’s Met Opera – returns to sing Brünnhilde, alongside Simon O’Neill in the title role, and Scottish tenor Iain Paterson as The Wanderer, in a rare performance on home soil. The performance is led by Sir Mark Elder with the Hallé orchestra.

Also in concert at the Usher Hall is a performance of Humperdink’s operatic fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel, with Sir Andrew Davis conducting the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and a cast led by two emerging American singers, mezzo soprano Elizabeth DeShongand soprano Laura Wilde, who sing the title roles.

Classical Music

The world’s foremost classical musicians gather once more in Edinburgh with 48 concerts and recitals in the Usher and Queen’s Halls, and the Festival Theatre Studio. Visiting orchestras include the London Symphony Orchestra with new Music Director Sir Simon Rattle, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra making its International Festival debut, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Bamberger Symphoniker, The Hallé, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Major soloists performing include Pierre Laurent Aimard, who gives three concerts as International Festival artist in residence, Nicola Benedetti, and world-leading pianists including Gabriela Montero, Krystian Zimerman, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Piotr Anderszewski and Marc-André Hamelin.

World-class singers perform, including Christopher Maltman, Alice Coote, Dorothea Röschmann, and emerging talents Lise Davidsonand Catriona Morison. On the podium, acclaimed conductors include Sir Andrew Davis, Edward Gardner, Vasily Petrenko, Robin Ticciati, Marin Alsop and Daniel Harding.

Key choral moments in the Usher Hall include a special performance of Handel’s oratorio Samson from Scotland’s finest period-instrument ensemble the Dunedin Consort, with conductor John Butt. Four concerts feature the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, the International Festival’s exceptional choir. They perform Haydn’s The Creation with Edward Gardner and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in the Opening Concert, with Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Vaughn Williams’s A Sea Symphony, and with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. Other choral highlights include Dvořák’s Requiem with Jakub Hrůša and the Bamberger Symphoniker and the closing concert with Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra performing Mahler’s epic Eighth Symphony.

2018 is Christopher Bell’s final Festival as Edinburgh Festival Chorus Director. He has led the Chorus for 11 years and the closing concert marks his farewell as its leader.

Young Classical Musicians at the Festival

In 2018 the International Festival focuses on young people across the programme, celebrating the next generation of world-class talent. The classical music programme shines a light on young performers from all over the world as a host of international youth ensembles gather in Edinburgh.

Orchestras include the YOA Orchestra of the Americas, the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, the Colburn School Orchestra, the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of the USA and the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland. The National Youth Choir of Scotland performs in residency, featuring in four concerts including the Opening Concert in Haydn’s The Creation, Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, a special concert conducted by the Choir’s founder Christopher Bell, and the closing concert, Mahler’s Eighth Symphony.

The International Festival hosts the semi-finals and final of the Eurovision Young Musicians 2018, an initiative of the European Broadcasting Union which sees young soloists from 18 nations compete to become European Young Musician of the Year. The competition features the winners from national performance competitions including the UK’s BBC Young Musician of the Year and the winner will be decided by a judging panel including Scotland’s leading composer Sir James MacMillan and US conductor Marin Alsop, in a concert broadcast live across Europe from the Usher Hall on 23 August. The competition is produced in partnership with BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Studios, BBC Arts Digital and the European Broadcasting Union.

Young stars of classical music make their International Festival debuts in recital at The Queen’s Hall. Edinburgh-born soprano and Cardiff Singer of the World winner Catriona Morison – herself an alumni of the National Youth Choir of Scotland – presents a programme of Brahms, Schumann and Mahler; winner of the 2012 Eurovision Young Musicians contest and BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, Norwegian violist Eivind Holtsmark Ringstad plays Schubert, Franck and Schumann; and Turkish tenor Ilker Arcayürek – winner of 2016’s International Lieder Competition in Stuttgart – performs a programme of songs by Schubert and Wolf, with pianist Simon Lepper.


The 2018 dance programme features a series of contemporary dance debuts and a farewell from a Festival favourite. Celebrated dancer and choreographer Akram Khan returns to the International Festival with Xenos, a new solo work which confronts the tragedy of the Great War by exploring the bewildering experience of Commonwealth soldiers in the trenches, forced to fight in a conflict alien to them. Xenos marks Akram’s final performances in a full-length production.

A companion piece to Xenos, Kadamati is a community dance piece for 500 local participants which will be performed on the forecourt of Holyrood Palace. Choreographed by Akram Khan, Kadamati draws on themes of identity, migration, connection and hope and will mark the end of the First World War. It also forms part of the Edinburgh International Culture Summit.

Company Wayne McGregor makes its International Festival debut with Autobiography. Choreographer and director McGregor shapes a unique work inspired by the sequencing of his own genome, in a piece which uses biological data to create new patterns in each performance, with no two presentations ever the same.

Choreographer Sharon Eyal and Company L-E-V also make their International Festival debut with the exhilarating Love Cycle – a double bill featuring the critically acclaimed OCD Love and latest work Love Chapter 2. Working with co-creator and multimedia designer Gai Behar, Eyal creates searing contemporary work which lays bare the intense emotion of love as experienced with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and the profound loss and loneliness of love taken away.

Cold Blood is a remarkable live, cinema-dance show, featuring choreography comprised entirely of hand movements created by Belgian choreographer Michèle Anne De Mey a founder member of Rosas dance company, film-maker Jaco Van Dormael and Kiss & Cry Collective. Characters are realised through the interplay of hands on seven separate sets, their movements filmed live in close-up and projected on to a cinema screen above, set to music by Schubert, Ravel and David Bowie. 

Virgin Money Fireworks Concert

The International Festival is brought to a spectacular conclusion on Monday 27 August with the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert. Over 400,000 fireworks will burst into the sky above Edinburgh Castle, choreographed to live music from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra led by conductor Clark Rundell.

A special selection of music by Leonard Bernstein begins the evening, celebrating the centenary of his birth in 1918. After a short interval, music from Gustav Holst’s The Planets accompanies the incredible display of fireworks above Edinburgh Castle.

Ahead of the Fireworks Concert, for the fourth consecutive year a Schools Concert takes place at the Ross Theatre in Princes St Gardens on the morning of Monday 27 August, with school children from across Edinburgh invited to hear live music from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Contemporary Music

Light on the Shore with Edinburgh Gin Seaside

For the first time in thirty years, the International Festival returns to Leith Theatre for a special season called Light on the Shore, which celebrates the remarkable variety and collaborative nature of Scottish popular music. Today’s launch sees part of the season announced, with full programme information and details on how to book tickets released on 2 May 2018.

Light on the Shore is a unique season of concerts and events drawing together bands, orchestral ensembles, curators and festival organisers at the Leith Theatre, recently described by one critic described as, ‘the best live music venue in Scotland’. Closed to the public since 1988, the theatre is re-emerging as a vital contemporary venue for Edinburgh thanks to the perseverance of local organisations such as the Leith Theatre Trust and Hidden Door festival, and forms a natural home for Light on the Shore.

The season comprises three strands - Bands and Solo Artists in concert, Orchestral ensembles re-imagining ground-breaking Scottish albums, and Scottish curators creating unique festival experiences. Bands and solo artists appearing in concert include Mogwai, Karine Polwart with her Scottish Songbook, King Creosote and Django Django. Artists and orchestral ensembles include Anna Meredith and the Southbank Sinfonia reworking her Scottish Album of the Year Award-winning Varmints, the s t a r g a z e ensemble conducted Andre de Ridder performing Scottish electronic heroes Boards of Canada’s first EP, High Scores, and The Grit Orchestra performs Bothy Culture and Beyond, a reworking of the album by Scots artist Martin Bennet. Lastly, some of the country's most collaborative innovators, curators and festival organisers come together to create a series of bespoke events and experiences. Kevin Williamson and Michael Pedersen of Neu! Reekie! curate an evening of performances featuring Scottish indie legends The Pastels andThe Vaselines; electronic-folk pioneers Lau inhabit different spaces across the Leith Theatre to bring together a special presentation of Lau-land, in which they will be joined by a host of friends and collaborators including American singer-songwriter Joan As Police Woman; and Glasgow’s Celtic Connections assembles an eclectic collection of artists in a bill that ranges from Quebequois quartet Le Vent du Nord to the exquisite vocal talents of Julie Fowlis.

Light on the Shore is supported by the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund. The Festival also welcomes new partner Edinburgh Gin Seaside as title sponsor of the series, which is produced with Leith based technical partners Black Light and The Warehouse.

Other contemporary music artists performing at the Festival include singer-songwriter John Grant, who showcases his new album, due for release in August; and artist St. Vincent – aka Annie Clark – whose album Masseduction was a huge hit in 2017 and critically-acclaimed by many as album of the year. Both play at the Edinburgh Playhouse.

Creative Learning and Engagement

The International Festival reaches thousands of young people every year through Creative Learning programmes. In 2018 secondary school pupils will explore the opera La Cenerentola and theatre-work The End of Eddy in a series of dedicated workshops.

Dance groups from schools and communities across Edinburgh will take part in Kadamati, the free, outdoor performance created by Akram Khan. Participants will learn the choreography through local training workshops, before taking part in the performance at Holyrood Palace on 22 August.

Year-round creative learning programmes includes The Art of Listening, which introduces primary school pupils to classical music and live performance, Soul Boxeswhich explores identity through visual art, and drama workshops with leading theatre practitioners.

The International Festival continues to offer great value for young ticket buyers aged 18 and under, with a 50% discount available for under 18s and students in full-time education on selected events from the opening of ticket sales. During August, £8 tickets are available for those aged 26 and under on the day of performance. And as part of the Festival celebration of young classical talent in Scotland’s Year of Young People, a new initiative - Free for Under 18s in 2018 - invites young people to attend youth ensemble concerts completely free of charge.

Edinburgh International Culture Summit

The International Festival continues to welcome the world to Edinburgh, attracting people from across the globe with audiences expected to travel from over 80 nations to be part of the global cultural celebration in Edinburgh.

In 2018, this celebration includes the Edinburgh International Culture Summit, a biennial event that brings together culture ministers, artists, thinkers and arts leaders from around the world, to consider the importance of culture and how it can aid and develop communities and nations.

Five partners, who all strongly believe in the power and benefit of culture and have a global reach and perspective, organise the Summit – British Council, Edinburgh International Festival, Scottish Government, The Scottish Parliament, and the UK Government.

This year the Summit focuses around three areas of debate: Culture and Wellbeing, Culture and Investment and Culture in a Networked World, which takes place 22–24 August at the Scottish Parliament. The Summit features Kadamati, the free, outdoor performance created by Akram Khan for 500 local participants.

Councillor Donald Wilson, Edinburgh’s Culture and Communities Convener, said ‘Every year, the International Festival is a celebration of people coming together from and a celebration of Edinburgh. This city has shaped the Festivals since their beginnings and in many ways, the Festival City is a gift to the world from the people of Edinburgh and Scotland. That is why I am pleased to see this year’s programme celebrate the city and feature our local communities and young people so strongly. With 2018 marking the Year of Young People, they really are the stars of the show and will participate in the free, opening event, Five Telegrams. These mass participation events have been a great success, and this year’s marking the centenary of the end of the Great War is not to be missed. And by bringing the nearby Leith Theatre into the International Festival programme for the first time in many years, a host of live music events will find a new home as part of Light on the Shore.

‘With such a mix of community events and Scottish artists, and a very international programme of opera, dance and theatre from all over the world, this looks like it’s going to be one of the most exciting Festival programmes yet’.

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