6 August, Edinburgh: Edinburgh International Festival launches tomorrow, pioneering the return of live performance to Scotland and marking the first live festival performances for almost two years. The world’s leading performing arts festival features a diverse programme of over 170 performances in Scotland’s capital city, spanning classical and contemporary music, theatre, opera, dance and spoken word. In a first for the International Festival, a digital programme delivers 18 free full-length performances to audiences around the world.

Audience safety is central to the planning of the 2021 Festival, with measures including bespoke outdoor venues for increased ventilation at Edinburgh Academy Junior School, Edinburgh Park and the University of Edinburgh’s Old College Quad; audience members seated in bubbles spaced two metres apart; and shorter performances with no intervals. The programme also includes carefully planned indoor performances at the Festival Theatre, Traverse Theatre, The Lyceum Theatre and Dance Base.

As part of the International Festival’s ongoing commitment to accessibility, the 2021 programme includes audio described, captioned and British Sign Language interpreted performances and free tickets to classical music concerts for 200 young people. Audiences under the age of 26 can enjoy £8 tickets on the day of selected performances; visit eif.co.uk/booking-information/8-on-the-day to find out which performances are included in this offer.

Kicking off the festival on Saturday 7 August is the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dalia Stasevska featuring Respighi’s Trittico Botticelliano, Stravinsky’s Pulcinella and the world premiere of Anna Clyne’s PIVOT, a new work inspired by an old Edinburgh folk music venue. The same evening also sees the world premiere of Enda Walsh’s Medicine from the award-winning Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival, presented in association with The Traverse. Featuring Domhnall Gleeson alongside Clare Barrett, Sean Carpio and Aoife Duffin, Medicine examines social responses to mental health concerns while deconstructing the fabric of theatrical performance. 

On Sunday 8 August Scottish Opera returns to the International Festival with its new production of Falstaff  by Glasgow-born director and designer Sir David McVicar. This new staging, adapted from the outdoor version, gets to the bones of Falstaff, balancing laugh-out-loud moments with a poignant tale of a childlike man who has outlived his own time. 

Other artists appearing at the 2021 Edinburgh International Festival include: Nicola Benedetti, Alan Cumming, Joyce DiDonato, Golda Schultz, Renée Fleming, Thomas Quasthoff, Isata Kanneh-Mason, Anna Meredith, The Snuts, Damon Albarn, Laura Mvula, Caribou, Thundercat, Saul Williams and conductors including Valery Gergiev, Marin Alsop, Elim Chan and Sir Simon Rattle.

Fergus Linehan, Festival Director, Edinburgh International Festival said:

“Today is a hugely important moment for audiences, artists, and all Edinburgh’s summer festivals. Over the coming weeks an incredible selection of performers from across the UK and around the world prepare to take the stage in our cherished venues and our beautiful new outdoor pavilions. We are thrilled to, once again, bring the city to life.

I want to express my gratitude to all those who have shown loyalty and commitment to the idea of the International Festival – that the arts are a universal force for good that enrich us personally, as members of our community and as global citizens.”

For full details of the 2021 International Festival programme, visit www.eif.co.uk.