News Story

Edinburgh International Festival returns for its 73rd year on 2 – 26 August 2019, bringing the best of theatre, music and dance from across the world to Scotland’s capital. The programme features 93 events, with 293 performances across 17 venues and 2600 artists from 40 nations including Australia, Nigeria, Canada, Belgium, China, Mali, Holland, South Africa, New Zealand, France, Germany, India, Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Classical Music

The world’s foremost classical musicians gather once more in Edinburgh with 46 concerts and recitals. The Usher Hall series presents 20 concerts featuring the world’s greatest orchestras and soloists in Edinburgh’s finest concert hall; the Queen’s Hall hosts 19 intimate morning recitals; while St Cecilia’s Hall - Scotland’s oldest purpose-built concert hall – is home to 8 early music recitals.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic, with Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, is the resident company at the 2019 International Festival, performing across three evenings as part of a special international tour celebrating the orchestra’s centenary year. It plays three contrasting concerts including the Aberdeen Standard Investments Opening Event at Tynecastle Park celebrating the movie music of Hollywood, and two Usher Hall concerts, performing Mahler’s Symphony No 2with the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, and the European premiere of John Adams’ new work Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?with pianist Yuja Wang.

The LA Phil is joined by young people from Scotland and the US throughout its Festival residency, with members of YOLA (Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles) participating in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Opening Event at Tynecastle Park. The LA Phil is also collaborating with Scottish young people from the Big Noise Orchestra – part of Sistema Scotland – culminating in a free open rehearsal in the Usher Hall led by Gustavo Dudamel on Sunday 4 August.

Visiting orchestras include London Symphony Orchestra with Sir Simon Rattle, Orchestre de Paris – returning to the Festival for the first time in 30 years - with Daniel Harding, BBC Symphony Orchestra with Semyon Bychkov, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra making its International Festival debut with conductor Long Yu, Hallé with Sir Mark Elder and the National Youth Orchestra of the USA. All three of Scotland’s National Orchestras – Scottish Chamber Orchestra,Royal Scottish National Orchestra and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra – perform at the 2019 Festival. On the podium, acclaimed conductors include Sir Andrew Davis, Edward Gardner, Joana Carneiro, Sir Antonio PappanoandHarry Christophers.

Major soloists performing in orchestral works and recitals include Sheku Kanneh-Mason, performing with his sister Isata, Andreas Ottensamer,Alisa Weilerstein, Brett Dean, Rachel Podger, Antoine Tamestit, Colin Currie and world-leading pianists including Yuja Wang, Jeremy Denk, Angela Hewitt, Kirill Gerstein and Beatrice Rana. Ensembles include The King Singer’s, The Sixteen, Cuarteto Casals, Europa Galante, Meta4, Doric String Quartet, Dunedin Consort, Nash Ensemble and Amatis Piano Trio.

World-class singers performing at the Festival include Joyce DiDonato,Alice Coote, Michael Fabiano, Roderick Williams, Florian Boesch, Miah Persson, Llŷr Williams, Lawrence Brownlee, Michael Volle, Anna Larssonand emerging talentsChristina Gansch, Natalya Romaniw and Christiane Karg.

A special series of five concerts, Sir James MacMillan at 60, celebrates his career and his long-held relationship with the International Festival. The concerts explore the full range of MacMillan’s varied output, with a major world premiere, as well as UK and Scottish premieres. Performances include the organ concertoA Scotch Bestiary, concerto for orchestra Woman of the Apocalypse, chamber work Fourteen Little Pictures, Symphony No 2 conducted by MacMillan himself, and his recent oratorio, All the Hills and Vales Along. The series culminates in the world premiere of his Symphony No 5, Le grand inconnu, a major new choral symphony performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra with The Sixteen, conducted by Harry Christophers.

Choral performances include four concerts featuring the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, the International Festival’s exceptional choir, who welcome new Chorus Director Aidan Oliver to his first Festival this year. The chorus performs Mahler’s Symphony No 2 with Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil in the Opening Concert, with Edward Gardner and the RSNO in Quickening by Sir James MacMillan, Elgar’s The Kingdom with Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé, and Daniel Harding and the Orchestre de Paris in Britten’s War Requiem. Over 400,000 fireworks burst into the sky above Edinburgh Castle, choreographed to live music from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra for the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert led by conductor Natalie Murray Beale.


Internationaal Theater Amsterdam, formerly Toneelgroep Amsterdam, and British director Robert Icke present a revelatory updating of Oedipus, retold as a political thriller for today. Sir Ian McKellen celebrates his 80th birthday recalling seminal moments from his life and career inIan McKellen On Stage and one of the UK’s best-loved writers and performers, Stephen Fry comes to the International Festival for the first time with Mythos, a trilogy of three plays adapted from his best-selling book in a one-man tour-de-force of storytelling.

Peter Gynt, a co-production between the International Festival and the National Theatre of Great Britain is a new version of Ibsen’s iconic story from writer David Hare, directed by Jonathan Kent and starring Scottish actor James McArdle. Sydney Theatre Company makes its International Festival debut with the European premiere of The Secret River, charting the story of two families divided by culture and land in 19th century Australia, featuring an ensemble cast of 22 and live music from composer Iain Grandage.

The You Are Here series features five theatre works, including two world premieres from the National Theatre of Scotland. Red Dust Road recalls writer Jackie Kay’s experiences navigating the challenges of growing up as a mixed-race adopted Scot and Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation is the latest work from theatre maker Tim Crouch, making his International Festival debut in this first co-production from the National Theatre of Scotland and the Royal Court. Writer and Director Ifeoma Fafunwa brings together ten of Nigeria’s biggest stars of theatre, film and television in Hear Word! Naija Woman Talk True.

A sensation at last year’s Avignon Festival,La Reprise. Histoire(s) du théâtre (I), recreates the real-life killing of Ihsane Jarfi, a gay man murdered in Liege in 2012. Swiss director Milo Rau meticulously documents Jarfi’s murder and questions what pushes individuals to commit murder. A concert, a conversation and a multimedia performance, Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools, examines Canada’s indigenous history, colonial legacy and the advancing threat of climate change. Disability-led Scottish company Birds of Paradise visit the International Festival for the first time, with Purposeless Movements, a theatre-work challenging perception of disability and masculinity with humour and honesty, created by Robert Softley Gale. Last seen at the International Festival in 2015 with The Magic Flute, UK theatre company 1927 brings to life a catalogue of the world’s little-known folk tales in Roots, through its signature fusion of stunningly visual handcrafted animation, live music and storytelling.


The 2019 staged opera programme features two contrasting works. Komische Oper Berlin and its Artistic Director Barrie Kosky present a lavish and beautiful staging of Tchaikovsky’s best-loved opera Eugene Onegin. Soprano Asmik Grigorian, recently nominated for Best Singer at the International Opera Awards, takes the central role of Tatyana, opposite German baritone Günter Papendell in the title role.

Scottish Opera and Opera Ventures present the European premiere of American composer Missy Mazzoli’s contemporary opera Breaking the Waves, in a new production from Tony award-winning director Tom Morris. Based on Lars von Trier’s controversial 1996 film, Mazzoli’s multi-layered and melodic score recalls Britten and Janáček, creating a dark soundscape which underlines the moral ambiguity of the story. US soprano Sydney Mancasola and Scottish-born baritone Duncan Rock lead the ensemble cast.

Remarkable performances of opera-in-concert remain a central feature of the Usher Hall programme. Wagner’s epic Götterdämmerungconcludes the International Festival’s concert Ring cycle, begun in 2016. US Soprano Christine Goerke – currently performing in the Metropolitan Opera New York’s revival of Robert Lepage’s Ring cycle – returns once again to sing Brünnhilde, following stellar appearances at the 2017 and 2018 Festivals in the role. Goerke is joined by Burkhard Fritz as Siegfried, with Amber Wagner, Karen Cargill and Samuel Youn returning to sing in the conclusion of this concert cycle, in an all-star ensemble also featuring Erin Wall and Catriona Morison. The performance is led by Sir Andrew Davis conducting the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Scottish conductor Donald Runnicles returns to Edinburgh with the full orchestra and chorus of Deutsche Oper Berlin, where he is Music Director, for Puccini’s Manon Lescaut in concert. One of the world’s great Italian-opera singers, American-Canadian soprano Sondra Radvanovsky makes her International Festival debut in the title role.

World-renowned British counter-tenor Iestyn Davies performs in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. He is joined by sopranos Sophie Bevan and Rowan Pierce with The English Concert, one of the world’s most respected period ensembles, under expert Canadian conductor Bernard Labadie. A concert performance of a different sort comes from Sir John Eliot Gardiner, who leads the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and a cast of international soloists in Leonard Bernstein’s masterpiece of musical theatre, West Side Story. He conducts an augmented Broadway theatre scoring as Bernstein originally intended, with soloists including Alek Shrader as Tony, Sophia Burgos as Maria and Andrea Baker as Anita.


The 2019 dance programme opens with a world premiere from Scotland’s national dance company, Scottish Ballet. The Crucible is a new narrative ballet with choreography by Helen Pickett adapted from Arthur Miller’s masterpiece of power and persecution, with a new musical score from Peter Salem performed live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra. Leading Chinese choreographer Yang Liping makes her International Festival debut with the Rite of Spring, a new interpretation of Stravinsky’s iconic ballet. Liping takes inspiration from Chinese and Tibetan symbols of nature, creating a strikingly visual and colourful work for 15 dancers which uses Stravinsky’s original score alongside specially created new music by He Xuntian.

As part of the You Are Here series Kalakuta Republik channels the spirit of afrobeat pioneer and activist Fela Kuti from Burkina Faso-born choreographer Serge Aimé Coulibaly, in a hypnotic dance work that draws parallels with the African revolution of the 1970s to today’s political resistance. Hard to Be Soft: A Belfast Prayer, is a dance work about — and for — the people of Belfast. Created by Northern Irish choreographer and dancer Oona Doherty, with music by DJ David Holmes (Killing Eve, Hunger), Hard to Be Soft looks behind the masks of violence and machismo to the inner lives of Belfast hard men and strong women. Montreal-based Cas Public bring 9, a piece for families specially created by choreographer Hélène Blackburn for performer Cai Glover, who overcame a hearing impairment to become a professional dancer. Set to music from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, written by the composer after profound hearing loss, 9 challenges expectations through an exploration of the senses.

Contemporary Music

The International Festival returns to the Leith Theatre this year with a second series of contemporary music concerts, following the success of 2018’s Light on the Shore season.

Artists performing include Anna Calvifollowing the release of her third studio album Hunter; Pulp frontman and solo artist Jarvis Cocker bringing his new project JARV IS; Swedish trip hop icon Neneh Cherryplays her latest album Broken Politics, produced by Four Tet; New Zealand-born multi-instrumentalist Connan Mockasin brings his unique blend of psychedelic pop, backed by his full touring band; and spoken-word performer and Mercury Music Prize nominee Kate Tempesttakes to the stage. Also performing are Danish band Efterklang, who return to touring after a seven-year hiatus; Irish indie-folk Villagers; New Jersey singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten; folk-rock group This Is The Kitled by Paris-based British musician Kate Stables; and legendary Scottish alt-rock band Teenage Fanclub who play songs from their three-decade career, as well as premiering new material.

Three additional concerts at the Usher Hall and Lyceum fuse Roots music and Folk traditions from across the world as part of You are Here. American gospel connects with its African origins in a collaboration between Malian duo Amadou & Mariam and the Blind Boys of Alabama; Lebanese folk pioneer and Arabic music innovator Marcel Khalife is joined by his son Rami and percussionist Aymeric Westrich; and Edinburgh-based Shooglenifty blends its unique fusion of Scottish traditional music with Rajasthani band Dhun Dhora and Galician trio Tanxugueiras.

Immersive Experiences

Canadian artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller present Night Walk for Edinburgh, a one-on-one video walk in which the audience are guided by a specially created film through Edinburgh’s Old Town.Trisha Brown: In Plain Site sees the late US choreographer’s most striking short dance pieces reconceived and staged amongst the dynamic landscape of West Lothian contemporary sculpture park Jupiter Artland.

You are Here

You Are Here is an invitation to travel the globe with artists who offer us a fresh perspective on the world and ask big questions about the future of our communities, both local and international.

You Are in Lagos, You are in Greenland, You are in Belfast, You are in Beirut, You are in Margate, You are in Edinburgh. You Are Here asks artists, local communities and visitors to the city to consider where we are and where we are going. The season is made up of fourteen stage presentations from Scotland, the UK and around the world and a curated programme of readings, informal performances and social events. You are Welcome.

Tickets for International Festival performances go on sale to the public at 10am on Saturday 6 April.