Edinburgh International Festival Opens With Elektra

Classic Arts News   Edinburgh International Festival Opens With Elektra
2006 is a special year for the Edinburgh International Festival: it's both the 60th edition and the last one to be programmed by outgoing festival director Brian McMaster. The Festival launches in dramatic style tonight with a concert performance of Richard Strauss's Elektra. Jeanne-Michle Charbonnet takes the title role, joined by Silvana Dussmann, Leandra Overmann, Iain Paterson and Ian Storey; Edward Gardner conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Other operas-in-concert at the EIF this year include Rossini's La donna del lago (Maurizio Benini conducting the Scottish Chamber Orchestra with Carmen Giannatasio, Patricia Bardon, Gregory Kunde and Kenneth Tarver) and Wagner's Die Meistersinger von N‹rnberg (David Robertson conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony and Edinburgh Festival Chorus with Hillevi Martinpelto, Jonas Kaufmann, Toby Spence, Neal Davies, Robert Holl and John Shirley-Quirk).

Fully-staged operas include Claudio Abbado conducting the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in Die Zauberfl‹te, in a staging directed by his son Daniele Abbado, and the world premiere of Stuart MacRae's first opera, The Assassin Tree. In addition, the Op_ra National de Lyon presents two productions: a Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht double bill, directed by Peter Stein and choreographed by Marie Chouinard, and Peter Stein's staging of Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa, starring Wojtek Drabowicz and conducted by Kirill Petrenko.

The classical concert offerings at the EIF are always large and impressive, and this year is no exception. Highlights include Andršs Schiff playing Beethoven sonatas; pianist Richard Goode in a Festival residency; Donald Runnicles conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke's; the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester conducted by Philippe Jordan with mezzo Susan Graham; Schumann's quasi-oratorio Manfred performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under music director Ilan Volkov; Ian Bostridge singing Wolf and Schubert with Royal Opera House music director Antonio Pappano at the piano; Osmo V‹nsk‹ and the Minnesota Orchestra playing Barber, Beethoven and Stravinsky; Ivšn Fischer conducting his Budapest Festival Orchestra in Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and two works by Bart‹k; and Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic in Szymanowski and Mahler.

The Bank of Scotland sponsors a series of recitals at the Queen's Hall with tickets starting at Ô£6; among the artists performing this year are pianists Christian Zacharias, Steven Osborne, C_dric Tiberghien, Ivan Moravec and Malcolm Martineau (in his familiar role as a partner to singers); flutist Emily Beynon; cellist Pieter Wispelwey; singers Soile Isokoski, Jane Irwin, Jonas Kaufmann, Robert Holl, Simon Keenlyside, Angela Denoke and Anne Schwanewilms; and chamber ensembles the Arcanto Quartet, Trio Wanderer and Belcea Quartet.

One of the best features of the entire Edinburgh Festival calendar is the series of Lloyd TSB Scotland Concerts: "A new way to enjoy the power of live classical music," as the EIF website puts it, "three concerts a night, each featuring just one major composer, each lasting around an hour and all at one price" — that price being a mere Ô£10. This year's Lloyd TSB Scotland series includes complete Beethoven and Bruckner symphony cycles: the Beethoven nine will be performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under the revered conductor Charles Mackerras, while the Bruckner works will have a variety of interpreters, including the BBC Scottish Symphony and Royal Scottish National Orchestras, the Finnish Radio Symphony, BBC Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestra, with conductors Herbert Blomstedt, Jir‹ Belohlšvek, Claus Peter Flor, Sakari Oramo, Ilan Volkov, G‹nther Herbig, St_phane Denve, Ingo Metzmacher and Donald Runnicles. There's even a third series of nine concerts each featuring a different composer: Bach (who gets two), Brahms, Strauss, Mahler, Vaughan Williams, Schubert, Beethoven and Messiaen.

Dance at this year's EIF includes Suzanne Farrell's revival of George Balanchine's Don Quixote, which received rave reviews at the Kennedy Center earlier this year; a modern dance program by the renowned Nederlands Dans Theater; four classic 20th-century ballets performed by Scottish Ballet; the exciting Brazilian modern dance company Grupo de Rua de Niter‹i; and a joint recital by two giants of Indian classical dance, each working in her own style: Madhavi Mudgal (Odissi) and Alarmel Valli (Bharata Natyam).

The theater program includes Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida directed by Peter Stein; Long Life performed by the New Riga Theatre of Latvia; American Repertory Theater's 2005 staging of Chekhov's Three Sisters; Realism, a new play written and directed by Anthony Neilson; and a staging of Michel Houellebecq's controversial novel Platform as adapted and directed by the notorious Catalan director Calixto Bieito.

The Edinburgh International Festival runs through September 3; complete information is available at www.eif.co.uk.

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