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There are many highlights in this year’s International Festival programme. We’ve rounded them up to make browsing easier for you.


We know you’ve missed us. We’ve missed you too. But we’re back – live and outdoors in some of Edinburgh’s most historic and picturesque settings. COVID safety is a priority and you can read more about how we’re approaching this important issue here. In the meantime, we’ve worked hard to curate a programme of events that are diverse and inspiring, providing a joyful route back to live performance. So what can you look forward to?

Studio image of Golda Schultz smiling

Golda Schultz

Credit: Diego Acosta

Opera returns to the International Festival with headliners Dido’s Ghost, a reimagining of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas by Belizean-British composer Errollyn Wallen, a brand new version of Strauss’s comic masterpiece Ariadne auf Naxos conducted by Sir Andrew Davies, and Scottish Opera’s Falstaff sees the national company make its first performance in an indoor venue for over a year. Between them they boast the talents of Dorothea Röschmann leading the cast of Ariadne auf Naxos, South African soprano Golda Schultz and Thomas Quasthoff in his return to the classical stage, amongst others.

We’re also proud to be bringing A Grand Night for Singing to Edinburgh this August. A dazzling staged musical revue of songs from much-loved Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, the cast features a wealth of talent including Kim Criswell, Anna-Jayne Casey and Danielle de Niese alongside Music Director Wayne Marshall. And this year’s re-imagined dance programme finds its voice in Dancing in the Streets, which includes the world premieres of original dance works created for film and presented in person by four acclaimed international choreographers: Gregory Maqoma, Janice Parker, Omar Rajeh and Alice Ripoll.

Damon Albarn pictured wearing a white shirt and grey jacket, leaning back in a chair and looking out to his right

Damon Albarn

Credit: Linda Brownlee

At a time when politically-charged and socially conscious dialogues are being prioritised, we join the conversation. The National Theatre of Scotland’s Lament for Sheku Bayoh is a non-apologetic reflection on racism in Scotland today (it will also be relayed on our website in full and for free during the month of August) and Medicine, making its world premiere and featuring star of stage and screen Domhnall Gleeson, is a devastatingly funny and profoundly moving play that examines social responses to mental health concerns.

In past years, the International Festival’s contemporary music programme has provided many highlights and this year it delivers the goods again. We’re excited to be presenting Blur and Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn (who makes his International Festival debut with this performance of brand new material), soulful singer Laura Mvula, indie folk sister trio The Staves, former Scottish Album of the Year winner Kathryn Joseph and many more in a purpose-built outdoor venue in Edinburgh Park.

Nicola Benedetti looking to the left and smiling while holding her violin.

Nicola Benedetti

Credit: Andy Gotts
Sona Jobarteh pictured performing onstage, playing guitar and singing into a microphone.

Sona Jobarteh

Credit: Dan Pier

We’ll also be presenting a series dedicated to traditional Scottish music in its most raw and powerful form. Inverness-born fiddle player Duncan Chisholm, high energy trad trio Talisk, International Festival favourite Karine Polwart and virtuoso kora player Sona Jobarteh (one of the first female musicians to stand out in this male-dominated field) play the University of Edinburgh’s Old College Quad and should not be missed. The International Festival’s 2021 artists-in-residence programme includes Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti with her newly formed Baroque ensemble and new solo project, bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff who gives public masterclasses as well as performing with his jazz quartet, and the Chineke! Orchestra – Europe’s first majority Black and ethnically diverse orchestra.

Alan Cumming pictured lying on the floor, propped up on one elbow while holding his right leg above his head.

Alan Cumming

Credit: Josh Going

This year’s classical music programme highlights include the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vasily Petrenko and featuring Isata Kanneh-Mason, Sir Simon Rattle with the London Symphony Orchestra and Kansas-born vocal superstar Joyce DiDonato, as well as Walter Scott 250, a memorable performance by Malcolm Martineau and friends to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Sir Walter Scott’s birth. For something distinctly unique, A Great Disordered Heart’s series of three concerts features outstanding traditional instrumentalists celebrating the connections between Scotland and Ireland. And Alan Cumming is back.

We look forward to seeing you again.


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