Edinburgh Festival, First Under Jonathan Mills's Leadership, Opens with Candide

Classic Arts News   Edinburgh Festival, First Under Jonathan Mills's Leadership, Opens with Candide
Jonathan Mills has been making dire predictions about the future of the Edinburgh International Festival if funding isn't increased. For the next three weeks, we get to see the kind of event he wants to run: the first EIF under his direction gets underway this evening.

Opening night features a concert performance of Leonard Bernstein's Candide. Matthew Polenzani, Laura Aikin, Thomas Allen and Kathryn Harries star, with Robert Spano leading the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Edinburgh Festival Chorus.

Mills's programming for this year emphasizes early music, which was not a priority under previous EIF director Brian McMaster. One of the festival's centerpieces is a production of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo in honor of the work's 400th anniversary. Jordi Savall conducts his orchestra and chorus, Hesprion XXI and La Capella Reial de Catalunya, with Montserrat Figueras (his wife) as La Musica and Arianna Savall (his daughter) as Euridice. Furio Zanasi takes the title role, with Gloria Banditelli as the Messenger. Gilbert Deflo recreates his 2002 staging from the Liceu in Barcelona, with imagery inspired by the Ducal Palace in Mantua where the opera had its premiere in 1607.

Savall pre, mre et fille join Hesprion XXI again for "Paradise Lost," a program of Spanish music inspired by Cervantes's Don Quixote. In addition, Hesprion XXI and La Capella Reial give a performance of Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610, and Savall plays a solo recital on viola da gamba, with works by Abel, Bach, Schenck, Marais and Demachy.

Other highlights of the early music lineup include the ensemble La Venexiana performing Gesualdo madrigals; a survey of Monteverdi's madrigals over five concerts by Concerto Italiano under Rinaldo Alessandrini; the Orlando Consort singing one program of Josquin Desprez and another of Machaut and Dufay; the Huelgas Ensemble performing an all-Lassus program; Anonymous 4 in two concerts, their "Mass for the End of Time" program of music from ca. A.D. 1000, and "An English Ladymass," with the repertoire from their first recording; and the Tallis Scholars singing one concert of Palestrina and another of Spanish music from the Siglo de Oro.

Ancient and modern meet in two programs. In the tamer one, the viol consort Fretwork and mezzo Susan Bickley perform 16th- and 17th-century music by Gibbons, Taverner, Byrd and Purcell, plus a new work by George Benjamin. The wilder offering is a "contemporary remix" of Monteverdi's final opera, L'incoronazione di Poppea, by composer/director Barrie Kosky and the Vienna Schauspielhaus. The EIF website describes this new version, called simply Poppea, thus: "Opera, theatre, operetta and revue blend as a compact version of the original text is sung, spoken, whispered and screamed. Cole Porter meets Monteverdi by way of burlesque."

There will be also be a multi-media rock opera production of Orpheus, with Rinde Eckert in the title role, Suzan Hanson as Eurydice and sets and costumes by David Zinn.

Moving back to the more conventional, Strauss's Capriccio gets a new staging from director Christian von G‹tz; Gabriele Fontana stars as the Countess, and Markus Stenz leads the G‹rzenich Orchestra of Cologne.

In addition to the staged productions, this year's EIF offers four operas in concert (not counting tonight's Candide). Vivaldi's Orlando furioso features Marie-Nicole Lemieux in the title role, with Jennifer Larmore, Veronica Cang_mi and Philippe Jaroussky; Jean-Christophe Spinosi conducts the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Chorus. Ilan Volkov conducts the BBC Scottish Symphony in Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex with Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts in the title role and Natascha Petrinsky as Jocasta, and Nicholas McGegan leads a double bill of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (starring mezzo Jane Irwin) and Salieri's Prima la musica, poi le parole.

Highlights of the dance lineup include On Danƒe, a new multimedia production by choreographers Jos_ Montalvo and Dominique Hervieu inspired by the operas of Rameau, and the U.K. premiere of William Forsythe's Impressing the Czar, set to music by Beethoven and danced by the Royal Ballet of Flanders.

Scottish Ballet will perform the premiere of Stephen Petronio's Ride the Beast; Trisha Brown's for MG: The Movie, set to music by Alvin Curran; and Ashley Page's Fearful Symmetries, with music by John Adams. The Trisha Brown Dance Company offers three works, set to music by Laurie Anderson, Monteverdi and John Cage, respectively.

The orchestral program begins tomorrow with Neeme J‹rvi leading the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, of which he is Conductor Laureate for Life, in music by Eller, Sibelius and de Falla. Thomas Ads conducts the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in two programs, one featuring his own violin concerto, Concentric Paths (with Anthony Marwood as soloist), alongside Stravinsky, Beethoven and Sibelius, and the other including his Three Studies after Couperin as well as the overture to Rameau's Les Indes galantes, Bizet's Symphony No. 3, and tenor Toby Spence singing Berlioz's Les Nuits d'_t_.

Among other orchestral highlights are Gustavo Dudamel leading the Sim‹n Bol‹var Youth Orchestra of Venezuela in Shostakovich and Bernstein, Roger Norrington conducting the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Edinburgh Festival Chorus in Haydn's The Creation, and Mariss Jansons conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Strauss and Sibelius.

Michael Tilson Thomas conducts the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Yefim Bronfman in Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 and works by Copland, Seeger, Adams and Tchaikovsky; in a separate concert, Deborah Voigt joins MTT and the SFS for the final scene from Salome. St_phane Denve will lead the RSNO in a concert dedicated to Poulenc, with Gillian Weir playing the Organ Concerto and Christine Brewer singing excerpts from Dialogues des Carm_lites.

Brewer also sings a solo recital with Roger Vignoles, featuring Berg, Dougherty, Strauss and Britten. Other highlights of the recital lineup are Alfred Brendel playing Mozart, Schubert, Haydn and Beethoven; percussionist Evelyn Glennie offering works by Reich, ter Veldhuis, Alvarez and Masson; guitarist John Williams performing music by Scarlatti, Albéniz, John Williams, Domeniconi and Sculthorpe; violist Yuri Bashmet playing Britten, Brahms and Shostakovich; soprano Kate Royal and mezzo Christine Rice in a joint recital of Brahms, Schumann and Dvorák; and pianist Olli Mustonen playing Schumann, Bach and his own works.

In addition to all this music and dance, the EIF is offering a full slate of theater and — for the first time — a visual art component. Another first is the "Sharing the Festival" program, which offers EIF presentations in other parts of Scotland. This year, medieval music expert Benjamin Bagby will offer his acclaimed one-man performance of Beowulf in Banchory (in northeastern Scotland) and the Orkneys before giving four performances in the capital.

The Edinburgh International Festival runs from August 10 to September 2; complete information is available at www.eif.co.uk.

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