The Edinburgh International Festival is Nigh

Posted: August 4, 2010 in Article
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El Nino

Aghh, I’m too excited! The last time I saw an Edinburgh International Festival show was as a promising, precocious auburn-haired teen: hooked on high culture, the suavely political Jacques Brel and becoming Britain’s first female orchestra conductor.

Aye, it was a lonely path.  Not many mates on that wee trajectory.

The path ended in Leith, as most roads do.  Five bairns later and a career up in Superkings, I’m giving my moribund high art veins a shot of the real stuff to find out what happens. Will I be swamped in nostalgia and regret; cast a sneering lip over the whole high art venture or be inspired to take butterfly steps towards more enlightenment?

The first piece of Jonathan Mill’s fourth reign at the head of Europe’s most prestigious arts festival is John Adams‘ El Nino.  I’m listening to it now.  You can hear snippets here or there are copies in the Edinburgh Library.

I’m hearing lashings of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, ladle-fulls of  Leonard Bernstein and light sprinklings of Stravinsky. Check it out for yourself on youtube.

“The piece is my way of trying to understand what is meant by a miracle,” said John Adams who incorporated nativity texts from the New Testament, Latin American poets and gnostic sources.

“A scene from the Gnostic sources provided me with an image that is unforgettable. It is the moment before the birth, and Joseph suddenly realizes that the entire earth has stopped and is frozen in a state of suspended animation.

The birds have stopped singing, the water ceases to flow, people are frozen in the middle of a simple gesture like eating or tending to an animal.

It’s like one of those infinitely detailed landscapes from the Middle Ages where a whole community of people, peasants, lords, children, animals and their surroundings are caught in lovingly depicted precision.”

Festival 2010 is called Oceans Apart.  “Its a sexy sensual programme that explores the new worlds of south, central and northern america”, says Jonathan Mills.

The Festival  closes with the annual spectacular Bank of Scotland Fireworks Concert this year celebrating music from the movies.

World premieres include political writer Alistair Beaton’s exploration of Scotland’s futile attempt at establishing Branding 2010a colony in Panama, in Caledonia, directed by Anthony Neilson and co-produced by the Festival and the National Theatre of Scotland, and flamenco dance work Quimeras from Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company.

I can’t wait!



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