McMaster, who has led the festival since 1991, will retire at the end of the 2006 festival in September. Mills will begin his tenure in October, with responsibility for planning the 2007 event.
Mills is artistic advisor to Melbourne's new Recital Centre and former director of the Melbourne International Arts Festival, the Brisbane Biennial International Music Festival, and other events. His works include Sandakan Threnody for tenor, choir, and orchestra, which won the 2005 Prix Italia.
Lesley Hinds, chair of the Edinburgh Festival Council and lord provost of the city of Edinburgh said, "This is an exciting and important appointment for the city and I am confident that we have chosen the right person to continue to grow Edinburgh's international reputation for innovative, inspiring, and high quality arts and cultural performances."
Mills inherits the festival's international reputation for innovation in theater, music, and other disciplines—and its mounting financial problems. It is currently carrying Ô£1 million of debt left over from the 2005 festival, which included five new productions.
In fact, according to the London Independent, other candidates are said to have withdrawn from consideration because of the debt. They reportedly included Pierre Audi, the founder of London's Almeida Theatre and the artistic director of Netherlands Opera, and Graham Sheffield, artistic director of the Barbican Centre.
The 2006 festival runs August 13-September 23.