Edinburgh International Festival Reveals First Performances and Theme for its 2024 Programme

The festival will run 2-25 August 2024.

By: Nov. 14, 2023
Edinburgh Festival
Edinburgh International Festival Reveals First Performances and Theme for its 2024 Programme
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Edinburgh International Festival has unveiled the first details of the 2024 Festival, and the second from Festival Director Nicola Benedetti, taking place 2-25 August 2024.

After a resoundingly successful 2023 Festival, which posed the question: ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’ the 2024 Edinburgh International Festival explores ‘Rituals That Unite Us’.

Reasserting the need for reconciliation and the value of shared experiences in today’s increasingly disconnected world, the curated programme of live music, theatre, opera and dance celebrates the practices, traditions and festivities that give us meaning and connect us – as a festival, a city, and as a society. 

This promises to be a thrilling year for opera lovers as five operas feature in the 2024 International Festival programme, three fully staged and two in concert. The first of these to be announced is the iconic Carmen, from globally celebrated Parisian opera house Opéra-Comique, the venue in which the opera premiered in 1875.

This production, led by German director Andreas Homoki, celebrates Carmen’s 149-year legacy on a replica stage of the Opéra-Comique recreated on the stage of Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre, 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.  

In an exciting collaboration that sees the International Festival once again working with Scottish national companies on an international stage, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra performs under the direction of Louis Langrée, General Director of Opéra-Comique and Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.  

Assembly Hall is a major new dance-theatre work, Scottish Premiere, and International Festival co-production, from Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite. Described by the Guardian as “a 21st-century dance genius”, Crystal Pite, alongside playwright Jonathon Young, present a dance-theatre hybrid that promises the company’s signature wit and invention. 

Also taking place at the Festival Theatre, but set in a community centre, Assembly Hall follows a group of medieval re-enactors coming together for their annual general meeting, a tradition that for the group serves as a bridge between the past and the present. The event they are organising 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, ancient forces are awoken, and it becomes clear that there is much at stake.  

Delving into the very human need to gather, Assembly Hall explores what stories we tell and repeat, and how those customs reflect our identity. 

The theme ‘Rituals That Unite Us’ responds to feedback on the International Festival’s 2023 theme, from audiences, artists and the public, that wherever we go next – and despite our differences – we must go 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. 

As well as a programme of live performances and discussions with the world’s finest artists and rising stars, the International Festival continues its commitment to stage large-scale events, inviting participation from communities across Scotland. In 2023, 500 amateur and professional musicians joyously performed in Princes Street Gardens for thousands of audience members. In 2024, the International Festival will collaborate with the World Health Organisation and Scottish Ballet to host the first ever nationwide Healing Arts campaign, Healing Arts Scotland. The week-long activation will begin on 19th August 2024, and will include performances, exhibitions, workshops and high-profile policy discussions. 

Nicola Benedetti, Festival Director, Edinburgh International Festival, says:

“Next 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.” 

Full programme will be announced with tickets going on sale in March 2024, with priority booking for members. Sign up to the Edinburgh International Festival newsletter for up-to-date information at www.eif.co.uk.


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