We could not be more excited to announce the programme for the 2023 International Festival, our 76th edition and Nicola Benedetti’s first year as Festival Director. Each year of Nicola’s programming will be framed by a central question or statement, and this year’s question is ‘Where do we go from here?’. Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr’s book of the same name, the programme is split into three themes: Community over chaos, Hope in the face of adversity and A perspective that’s not one’s own.
Community over chaos
The first theme of the 2023 programme is Community over chaos, inspired by individuals who have dedicated their lives to bringing communities together.
Our Opening Concert marks the Scottish premiere of Tan Dun’s Buddha Passion. Conducted by Dun himself, the performance brings together some of the best in Scottish classical music, with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, their Youth Chorus and the Edinburgh Festival Chorus all joining forces. Also at the Usher Hall, the Budapest Festival Orchestra takes up the first residency of the Festival. The residency is dedicated to exploring how orchestras can share the joy of music in new and exciting ways. One of their concerts will be held with the audience seated on beanbags and the orchestra scattered amongst them for an immersive experience of Antonín Dvořák’s spectacular Eighth Symphony.
In the intimate setting of The Queen’s Hall, the ever-enchanting Iestyn Davies joins the Jupiter Ensemble for a celebration of George Frideric Handel, with music exploring themes of love, jealousy and religious devotion. Award-winning pianist Sir András Schiff also takes to the stage, with a surprise programme to be announced from the stage of music selected and introduced by himself.
The Hub, home of the International Festival, houses our new music series this summer. First Night at The Hub brings Nicola Benedetti together with a range of artists from the opening weekend in an eclectic programme of music centred around community. There's also an evening dedicated to Scottish traditional music, with a 6pm performance by national treasures Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham followed by a later performance by the up-and-coming trad trio Project Smok.
Cécile McLorin Salvant brings her jazz song cycle Ogresse to the Festival Theatre, telling the story of a lovesick, ravenous monster who lives in a forest. Created by Salvant, the work draws inspiration from an eclectic range of female figures across time and cultures to create a timely and poignant narrative about racism, sexism, colonialism and power dynamics.
In theatre, Geoff Sobelle returns to the International Festival with a Festival-long run of FOOD, an absurdist, visceral piece discussing how and why we eat. Brazilian director Christiane Jatahy’s Dusk, a thoughtful exploration of society’s treatment of the Other, comes to the UK for the first time and Greek tragedy, K-pop and pansori meet in Ong Keng Sen’s production of Trojan Women.
Hope in the face of adversity
The second theme of our programme is Hope in the face of adversity, inspired by the many incredible artworks that have emerged from times of intense struggle.
The London Symphony Orchestra, the second residency of the Festival, bring a powerful programme of works created in the face of adversity. Sir Simon Rattle conducts Messiaen’s awe-inspiring Turangalîla Symphony, described by Rattle as a ‘profound cry of relief’ and written following the composer's internment in a prisoner of war camp. The Szymanowski and Brahms concert explores dealing with grief, with two very different pieces that explore pain and mourning but end in uplifting radiance.
At The Queen’s Hall, The Amatis Trio are joined by multi-Grammy® Award winner Thomas Quasthoff for a recital reflecting on humanity in war, featuring a range of modern and Romantic music interspersed with recitals of letters from the First World War. Soloists include superstar soprano Julia Bullock performing a selection of songs by women who inspire her, accompanied by Bretton Brown, and composer, cellist and singer Ayanna Witter-Johnson joining the LSO Percussion Ensemble for a jazz-infused programme. At The Hub, the world’s first full-time solo percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie presents an evening exploring her personal journey as a musician.
Three giants of the dance world – Pina Bausch Foundation, École des Sables and Sadler’s Wells – come together for an epic new production of Pina Bausch’s The Rite of Spring. The ensemble of over 30 dancers from 14 different African countries performs this timeless wild and poetic struggle in a double bill, contrasted with the poetic and tender duet common ground[s].
Our theatre programme ranges from the grand to the intimate. The Berliner Ensemble performs their raucous production of The Threepenny Opera under the distinctive maximalist direction of Barrie Kosky, while Punchdrunk Enrichment transports children to a magical library in their enchanting immersive piece The Lost Lending Library.
The queen of Portuguese fado Mariza brings her mesmerising and charismatic performance to the Festival Theatre, while singer-songwriter Jake Bugg fills the Edinburgh Playhouse with infectious indie-pop.
A perspective that’s not one’s own
The final theme of the 2023 Festival is A perspective that’s not one’s own, exploring how differently each person sees the world and asking how we can develop a deeper culture of listening and increase our tolerance of each other.
In The Lyceum, Cheek by Jowl’s radical new production of Life is a Dream centres around a character grappling to understand a reality that is different to what he had always believed. At the Church Hill Theatre, Theatre of Sound reimagine Bartók's opera Bluebeard’s Castle as a poignant love story about living with dementia.
The Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela takes up the third and final residency of the Festival. The orchestra is comprised of musicians aged 18–25, bringing new perspectives to pieces from the classical canon and lesser-known music alike. The orchestra performs three concerts, starting with conductor Gustavo Dudamel leading the orchestra on an odyssey through Venezuela’s folk roots. Also in the Usher Hall, Richard Wagner’s Romantic opera Tannhäuser is given a concert performance. Rising star Clay Hilley makes his role debut as Tannhäuser, a young musician journeying between earthly and heavenly realms seeking to understand himself better.
At The Queen’s Hall, violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja presents Haydn’s The Seven Last Words of Christ against a video installation backdrop inspired by the music. At The Hub, bassist and composer Endea Owens is joined by her sextet for a performance of beloved jazz standards and for the world premiere of a new work inspired by Martin Luther King Jr’s speech ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’, specially commissioned by the International Festival. At the Festival Theatre, masterful and genre-defying sitar player Anoushka Shankar performs music from across her repertoire with a quintet representing the best of London’s thriving music scene. At Edinburgh Playhouse, self-proclaimed dancefloor priestess Alison Goldfrapp, one half of the iconic electronic duo Goldfrapp, makes her International Festival solo debut.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater bring two programmes of work showcasing the breadth of the company's repertory. Programme 1 celebrates some of the most dynamic choreographers in the company’s history while Programme 2 shines a light on Alvin Ailey’s own choreography. One piece, Memoria, will feature young dancers hand-selected from across Scotland. Both programmes end with the company's signature piece Revelations, an homage to African American culture which is the most widely viewed modern dance work in the world.
We can’t wait for you to join us this August for the first Festival of this exciting new chapter. Let us know what in our programme you’re most excited to see by getting in touch on social media using #EdIntFest.