Edinburgh International Festival 2016 Programme Announced

Today Festival Director Fergus Linehan unveiled the 2016 Edinburgh International Festival programme. This year’s International Festival runs from Friday 5 to Monday 29 August, welcoming 2,442 artists from 36 nations to perform in Scotland’s capital city. 

Fergus Linehan said: ‘The International Festival is an invitation from the people of Scotland to people from all over the world to join us in an unparalleled celebration of creativity, virtuosity and originality.  The calibre, ambition and passion of the artists and ensembles in this year’s programme combined with Edinburgh’s electric Festival atmosphere, will make for an unforgettable experience for newcomers and International Festival veterans alike.’

  • Some of the world’s greatest artists and ensembles perform at the International Festival in 2016
  • Artists making their first appearance at the International Festival include Cecilia Bartoli, Youssou N’Dour, James Thierrée, Barry Humphries and Mogwai
  • Major productions from two of the world’s leading opera festivals, Salzburg Festpiele (Norma) and Festival d’Aix en Provence (Cosi fan tutte)
  • An epic celebration of the start of the festival season, Deep Time is an animated artwork which will transform Castle Rock and Edinburgh Castle
  • Major classical music artists include Sir András Schiff, Maxim Vengerov, Daniil Trifonov, Mikhail Pletnev, Anja Kampe, Karen Cargill and Sir John Eliot Gardner
  • Celebrated director John Tiffany returns to Scotland with the European premiere of his Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie
  • The 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare is celebrated with events across the programme and international re-imaginings of three key plays
  • Visits from world leading orchestras including the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and the Russian National Orchestra
  • Scottish artists take centre stage in a series of concerts celebrating contemporary Scottish music
  • The Hub plays host to a nightly house show hosted by Scottish stage and screen star Alan Cumming
  • Events for families and young people, including two contrasting dance theatre works

Unveiling his second International Festival programme, Linehan revealed a rich mix of world-class artists and ensembles from across the performing arts, alongside a superb showcase of Scottish-based talent.

Major artists appearing in the programme include renowned Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, legendary Australian satirist Barry Humphries, revered conductor Herbert Blomstedt, Oscar-nominated singer ANOHNI, world-renowned ballerina Natalia Osipova, celebrated director John Tiffany, UK ensemble Cheek by Jowl, post-rock icons Sigur Rós, celebrated Scottish actor Alan Cumming, Edinburgh’s own Mercury Prize-winners Young Fathers, leading conductor Marin Alsop, acclaimed pianist Daniil Trifonov, Senegal’s most celebrated musician Youssou N’Dour and work by choreographer Crystal Pite.

The start of Edinburgh’s festival season is celebrated with a free, public outdoor event at 10.30pm on Sunday 7 August. Deep Time is a digitally animated artwork using the iconic locations of Edinburgh Castle and Castle Rock as the rugged canvas for projections and illuminations inspired by the city’s past. The event explores 350 million years of Edinburgh history, uncovering the unique geology of a landscape formed by volcanic activity, while celebrating the intellectual legacy of the city and in particular James Hutton, the Edinburgh scientist and ‘father of modern geology’.  Hutton’s work greatly contributed to the evidence-based academic revolution of the Scottish Enlightenment and shifted modern thinking about how the world was formed. Deep Time is set to a specially compiled soundtrack of music by Scottish rock band Mogwai and is produced by Tony-award winning 59 Productions, creators of the acclaimed Harmonium Project that launched Festival 2015. 59 Productions will employ cutting-edge 3d animation and projection techniques to create the event, also working in partnership with the University of Edinburgh, with academics from across the science, arts and humanities faculties contributing. The event is free but ticketed, with full event and booking details released on 20 June.  Fergus Linehan also named 59 Productions as Associate Artists of the International Festival for the next three years:  ‘59 Productions have, time and again, created innovative and compelling work in the fields of music, theatre, opera, film and visual arts while pioneering the use of new technologies. We are delighted to be working with such a remarkable group of artists over the next three years.’

The world’s foremost classical musicians gather once more in Edinburgh with 42 concerts and recitals in the Usher and Queen’s halls. Visiting orchestras include the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and the Russian National Orchestra. Major soloists performing include pianist Daniil Trifonov, who gives three concerts throughout the International Festival, Sir András Schiff, Richard Goode, Maxim Vengerov and Mikhail Pletnev, as well as world-class singers including Anja Kampe, Karen Cargill, Stuart Skelton and Vitalij Kowaljow. On the podium, acclaimed conductors include Herbert Blomstedt, Sir Antonio Pappano, Yannick Nézét Seguin, Marin Alsop and Donald Runnicles.  Outstanding choral moments bookend the Usher Hall opening and closing concerts, which feature the Edinburgh Festival Chorus performing Rossini’s Stabat Mater and Schoenberg’s rarely performed Gurrelieder.

Celebrated Director John Tiffany returns to Scotland with the European premiere of his production of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, running at the King’s Theatre for two weeks. Originally created with American Repertory Theatre in Boston, the show transferred to Broadway in 2013 to huge critical acclaim; Ben Brantley of the New York Times hailed Tiffany’s ‘stunning production... which promises to be the most revealing revival of a cornerstone classic for many a year to come.’ The production stars Tony-award winning American stage and screen actor Cherry Jones as Amanda Wingfield. John Tiffany’s Black Watch for the National Theatre of Scotland toured the world to universal acclaim and his Broadway production of the musical Once won eight Tony Awards. As Associate Director of the National Theatre of Scotland he directed The Bacchae at the 2007 International Festival. John is currently in rehearsals for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, opening in London’s West End this summer, of which he is co-writer and director. 

2016 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, whose work resonates throughout the programme. Three theatre companies present contrasting international perspectives on his work. Renowned theatre maker Thomas Ostermeier returns to the International Festival with a reworking of Richard III in a critically acclaimed production from Berlin’s Schaubühne Theatre; Cheek by Jowl, led by Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, unites with Moscow’s Pushkin Theatre for their International Festival debuts with Measure for Measure, a compelling production which draws parallels with modern Russia. British-born director Dan Jemmett and his French-based company Eat a Crocodile bring Shake, a five-piece re-imagining of Twelfth Night. The Bard’s influence also extends through the classical music programme with Shakespearean-inspired music from Rossini, Bellini, Verdi, Berlioz, Strauss and Tchaikovsky in concerts at the Usher and Queen’s halls.

A special concert series celebrates the remarkable reach and international success of Scottish contemporary music. From post-punk to post-rock, art-school infused pop, Scots traditional and modern folk, electronica and hip hop - with some events fusing music with film and animation - these concerts shine a light on the unique character of modern Scottish music and the artists working within it. The line-up includes Lau’s Martin Green working with collaborators from Portishead, The Unthanks and Mogwai in the world premiere of Flit, Greg Lawson’s monumental reworking of Martyn Bennett’s masterpiece Grit which was originally commissioned by and premiered at Celtic Connections, Edinburgh’s Mercury Prize winning Young Fathers, Glasgow electronic artist Hudson Mohawke’s production work with ANOHNI and Oneohtrix Point Never, the world premiere of Wind Resistance from folk singer-songwriter Karine Polwart, documentary Where You’re Meant To Be with live performance from Aidan Moffat, Scottish rock band Mogwai with a live performance of new album Atomic, the folk, jazz and classical Indian fusion of Yorkston/Thorne/Khan and a special performance from post-punk pioneer Emma Pollock. This series is supported by the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund. 

The home of the International Festival, The Hub, will be the venue for a nightly house show which runs throughout August, as well as hosting seven intimate concerts. One of Scotland’s best-loved artists Alan Cumming takes up residence over three weeks and 20 performances, with his cabaret show, Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs! Alan dispenses seductive songs and intimate stories featuring very personal reinterpretations of the songs he loves to sing.

The International Festival continues to programme work for young people and families, including two contrasting dance pieces. Fusing dance, storytelling and interactive animation, Chotto Desh is the first family show created by Akram Khan, reworked from his Olivier Award-winning autobiographical solo show DESH. Raw is a dynamic and gritty dance theatre work from Belgium’s Kabinet K, made by young people for young people. The International Festival also continues to offer great value for young ticket buyers aged 18 and under, with a discount of 50% available on selected events from the opening of ticket sales. Students in full time education are entitled to a discount of 30% from 6 July onwards, with £8 tickets available for those aged 26 and under, on the day of performance. The International Festival’s year-round work with young people includes a three-year residency at Castlebrae Community High School, now in its second year, with workshops and events as well as a bespoke mentoring and work experience programme. This summer includes a visit from International Festival artist Alan Cumming, to talk about his life as a performer and actor to pupils and staff at Castlebrae.

Edinburgh’s summer festival season will again be brought to a spectacular conclusion on Monday 29 August with the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert. Over 400,000 fireworks will burst into the sky above Edinburgh Castle, choreographed to live music from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra with Estonian conductor Kristiina Poska, continuing 2016’s Shakespearean celebrations with two interpretations of his best known love story, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet and the Symphonic Dances from Bernstein’s classic West Side Story. Ahead of the Fireworks Concert, there will also be a Schools Concert taking place at the Ross Theatre in Princes St Gardens on the morning of Monday 29 August, with school children invited from across Edinburgh to hear live music from SCO VIBE, a fusion orchestra open to young musicians aged 11–18. 

Tickets for all events at the International Festival go on sale on Saturday 16 April at 10am, unless signed up for priority booking which opens on Wednesday 6 April at 10am.

Sign up to receive e-newsletters
If you would like to know how we manage your personal data,
please click on the EventScotland privacy policy.