In Festival Director Nicola Benedetti’s resoundingly successful first year we asked, ‘Where do we go from here?’. The overwhelming response from audiences, artists and the public was clear. Wherever we go next, despite our differences, we must go together.
That’s why for the 2024 Edinburgh International Festival, taking place between 2 – 25 August, we will explore ’Rituals that Unite Us’. Reasserting the need for reconciliation and the value of shared experiences in today’s increasingly disconnected world, our curated programme of live music, theatre, opera and dance will celebrate the practices, traditions and festivities that bring us together.
The 2024 theme takes inspiration from philosopher Byung-Chul Han. His book The Disappearance of Rituals reminds us that what we do, over time, defines who we are, and that our collectively experienced rituals help ground us and bind us closer together. A central idea of the book is the humility, sacrifice and participation required to maintain community rituals. This will be explored in the programme through events marking the 900th anniversary of the city of Edinburgh in 2024. Other key ideas include the sacred rituals of life and death, and rituals around the art of seduction.
The first production to be announced is the Scottish premiere of Assembly Hall; a major new dance-theatre work. This is a co-production with the International Festival from the four-time Olivier Award-winning Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite, which will be performed at the Festival Theatre.
Described by the Guardian as “…a 21st-century dance genius”, Crystal Pite, alongside playwright Jonathon Young, has created a dance-theatre hybrid that promises to be full to the brim with the company’s signature wit and invention.
Set in a community centre, Assembly Hall follows a group of medieval re-enactors coming together for their annual general meeting, a tradition that serves as a bridge between the past and the present. The organisation has fallen on hard times, and unless they take bold measures, this venerable order faces dissolution. As the meeting progresses, the line between reality and re-enactment begins to blur, and ancient forces are awoken.
Delving into the very human need to gather, Assembly Hall explores what stories we tell and repeat, and how those customs reflect our identity.
We are so excited to be able to finally share that not one, not two, but five operas will be featured in the 2024 International Festival programme. Three of which will be fully staged and two will be performed as operas in concert.
The first of these staged productions is Georges Bizet’s iconic Carmen, from globally celebrated Parisian opera house Opéra-Comique, the same venue in which the opera premiered in 1875.
This production, led by German director Andreas Homoki, and performed in the Festival Theatre, celebrates Carmen’s 149-year legacy on a replica stage of the Opéra-Comique itself, complete with seven iron doors constructed by Gustave Eiffel, the creator of Paris’ famous tower. The score also remains true to the ‘opéra-comique’ style, where musical pieces are interspersed with dialogue, emphasising the comedic elements of Georges Bizet’s visionary writing.
The cast includes; Gaëlle Arquez as Carmen, a role in which she has captivated audiences since 2017; star tenor Saimir Pirgu as Don José; Elbenita Kajtazibi as Micaëla; and Jean-Fernand Setti as Escamillo.
This is an exciting collaboration that sees the International Festival working once more with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Louis Langrée, General Director of Opéra-Comique and Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
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Healing Arts Scotland
We will also continue our commitment to staging large scale events, collaborating with the World Health Organisation and Scottish Ballet to host the groundbreaking Healing Arts Scotland week, featuring performances, exhibitions, workshops, and high-profile policy discussions.
Nicola Benedetti, Festival Director, Edinburgh International Festival, says:
“This year's Edinburgh International Festival celebrates the unifying force of collective live experiences. We continue to pursue an openness towards diverse perspectives, and in exploring 'Rituals That Unite Us', reflect our deeply human need to connect with one another.
“When beliefs differ, when we are not aligned over a shared singular fight, it is always an effort, always tricky, always messy. But this is what our Festival was founded to do. People use the word ‘soft’ when speaking of the power of the arts, but to open hearts and minds is the toughest and most serious thing we can offer people. It all starts with belief and trust. We led with this feeling in 2023, and we will deepen it in 2024.”
The full programme will be announced in March 2024. Tickets will go on sale shortly afterwards, with priority booking for members.