Edinburgh International Festival’s 2024 Programme Brings Audiences and Artists Closer Together Than Ever Before

From 2-25 August 2024, Edinburgh International Festival presents a hand-picked selection of leading international and local artists in the world’s Festival City, with 24 days of world-class opera, dance, music and theatre.

The 2024 programme comprises 161 performances from over 2000 artists across 42 nations, all joined under the theme, ‘Rituals That Unite Us’.The theme responds to an overwhelming desire for togetherness from artists and audiences following on from 2023’s question ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’. Reasserting the value of shared experiences, the 2024 International Festival celebrates the practices, traditions and festivities that give us meaning and connect us – as a festival, a city, and as a society.

The second year under Festival Director and Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti, the 2024 programme offers an increased range of innovative and informal audience experiences, designed to create closer union between artists and audiences.

Audiences can enjoy a virtual reality experience filmed within an orchestra, asite-specific promenade opera and, by popular demand, an expanded programme of beanbag concerts placing the audience among performers to experience music in a unique way.The programme also features an all-ages family concert, a participatory dance and music work outside The Scottish Parliament,and post-show talks with artists in The Hub, returning with a bigger programme as the International Festival’s home and ‘green room’. This year the venue will be open to the public for informal dining, drop-in rehearsals and Up Late performances.

There is also a deepened commitment to reach the broadest possible audience, with 50% of tickets for the 2024 International Festival to be sold at £30 or under, thousands of free tickets available for young musicians, and £10 Affordable Tickets available for every performance in the 2024 programme.

Year round, the International Festival offers three pathways for people of all ages and backgrounds to make the most of their creative potential and create a growing social impact in Scotland. Underpinning the 2024 Festival is an ambition to deepen connections with young people, communities and the arts industry, from a youth takeover day and opportunities for emerging talent to a first-time partnership with an Edinburgh community space and pop-up performances in NHS healthcare settings.

Highlights of the programme include:

  • Two world premiere theatre productions from Scottish creatives: The Fifth Step, a thrilling new play written byDavid Ireland, directed by Finn den Hertog and starring BAFTA-nominated Scottish actor Jack Lowden; and the stage adaptation of Amy Liptrot’s bestselling memoir, The Outrun, brought to life by Oliver Award-winning playwright Stef Smith, director Vicky Featherstone and Edinburgh’s producing theatre, The Royal Lyceum Theatre Company.
  • Five extraordinary operas, of which three are staged and two are performed in concert, including Opéra Comique’s production of Bizet’s Carmen with Gaëlle Arquez in the title role; and Komische Oper Berlins production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, directed by Kirill Serebrennikov. A new production of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex by Scottish Opera takes over the National Museum of Scotland, performed in promenade with a 100-strong community chorus from across Scotland.
  • A two-part opening weekend exploring different ways of telling the same great story, with two distinct interpretations of the Passion: Latin American and Afro-Cuban musical styles mix with contemporary classical expressions in the Scottish premiere of Osvaldo Golijov’s La Pasión según San Marcos, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, their Chief Conductor Ryan Wigglesworth and the Edinburgh Festival Chorus take on Johann Sebastian Bach’s masterpiece, the St Matthew Passion, in Mendelssohn’s 1841 version.
  • The return of beanbag concerts, inspired by Budapest Festival Orchestra’s founder Iván Fischer’s shows last year, with the audience seated on beanbags to experience classical music in a unique way. A variety of musical performances include family-friendly presentations from European Union Youth Orchestra with Gianandrea Noseda, and Barokksolistene’s The Alehouse Sessions, transforming the Usher Hall into a 17th-century English tavern, complete with sea shanties and folk-favourites.
  • The Opening Event – a large-scale outdoor opening event for 10,000 people evoking the mythology and history of Scotland’s rich heritage, in collaboration with single malt Scotch Whisky, The Macallan, with creative producer Pinwheel. Further details will be announced closer to the event.
  • The Philharmonia Orchestra in residency, including performances of Verdi’s Requiem (conducted by Santtu-Matias Rouvali) and the International Festival’s Closing Concert, Strauss’s Capriccio (conducted by Sir Andrew Davis), with Malin Byström. The Philharmonia also present the UK premiere of Julia Wolfe’s Fire in my Mouth, a multimedia performance conducted by Marin Alsop, with the National Youth Choir of Scotland.
  • A stellar dance and theatre offering full of UK, European and World Premieres with leading creatives and companies such as Internaational Theater Amsterdam, Crystal Pite, Kidd Pivot, Grupo Corpo, Aakash Odedra, National Theatre of Scotland, Jack Lowden, 1927, Teatro La Plaza, Émilie Monnet, Waira Nina, Christiane Jatahy and more.
  • The Bamberger Symphoniker in residence with conductor Jakub Hrůša for three performances that include works by Brahms, Dvořák and Hans Rott, and a family-friendly explainer event, Beyond the Score, taking a deep dive into Dvořák’s New World Symphony. 
  • A final residency with Ilumina, the São Paulo-based artist collective founded by violinist Jennifer Stumm. Known for their model of 21st century creativity and artist-led advancement of diverse talent, their first visit to the International Festival sees them give two concerts with the audience seated on beanbags and two performances in The Hub.
  • Projects which go beyond the performances on stage with an ambition to create a growing social impact in Scotland through the performing arts, include: a first-time Community Connections Hub, inviting audiences to experience the Philharmonia Orchestra in Virtual Reality within their own community space; Culture Clubs bringing together community groups to explore ‘Rituals that Unite Us’ through a shared meal and performance; pop-up performances in NHS healthcare settings; a Youth Takeover Day for senior pupils in Edinburgh schools; and schools performances and workshops across music, opera, theatre and dance for secondary school pupils.
  • A contemporary music programme including gifted singer-songwriter Cat Power; indie-pop sensation Bat for Lashes; polymath composer and piano personality Chilly Gonzales; beloved orchestral-pop group The Magnetic Fields; one of the most famous voices in African music, Youssou N’Dour; the mighty 80-piece contemporary Scottish GRIT Orchestra; South London electronic singer-songwriter Tirzah; a blend of West African folkloric music, the sounds of Black London and the London jazz scene with Balimaya Project; and a signature mix of electronic and soul from New Zealand-born Jordan Rakei. 
  • Leading soloists include Dame Sarah Connolly, Yuja Wang, Golda Schultz, Alison Balsom, Hilary Hahn, Jakub Józef Orliński, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Ian Bostridge, Steven Osborne and more.
  • The Hub, the International Festival’s HQ on the Royal Mile, is once again home to the most intimate performances and discussions from virtuosic musicians sharing their respective culture, traditions and rituals through music and instrumentation. A programme of leading Celtic musicians includesIrish quintet Goitse, an International Festival debut from Welsh folk band VRïand the 25th anniversary ofFèisRois’ Ceilidh Trail. Further across the globe, innovative musicians from Brazil, China, America, Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, West Africa and Indiacome to Edinburgh in a truly international programme.

As part of the International Festival’s ongoing commitment to accessibility, the 2024 programme includes 25 accessible performances, including ten audio described performances, five BSL interpreted performances, and nine captioned performances. The concession ticket for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people is increased from 30% to 50% off all full price tickets, with options for a free essential companion ticket still available where required. The types of accessible seating options held for members of the free Access Pass initiative has also been expanded to include aisle seats and seats with additional leg room, across all Festival venues.

General booking for the 2024 International Festival opens on Thursday 21 March, with tickets currently on-sale to Members and supporters.

Nicola Benedetti, Festival Director, Edinburgh International Festival said:As we join forces with the world’s greatest artists and bring them here to Edinburgh, we do so with a deeper dedication to our audience. This year the Edinburgh International Festival inaugurates new and reimagined rituals, honouring tradition and innovation, to bind us closer together. We invite you to seek and gather with us this August – there is always something new to discover.” 

Culture and Communities Convener, Councillor Val Walker said: “It’s fantastic to see the 2024 programme for the Edinburgh International Festival. This promises to be a unique and exciting chapter in the Festival’s rich history with over 2000 of the world’s extraordinary artists performing here this August.”

“It’s particularly encouraging to see initiatives such as making free tickets available for young musicians, and £10 Tickets available for all performances. Given we are in the midst of a challenging cost of living crisis and our festivals have a key role in providing us all with opportunities to enjoy exceptional and entertaining experiences, these will hopefully contribute towards the goal of choice and access for everyone in our city. The International Festival is an integral part of the Capital’s cultural calendar and as a Council we’re proud to support it.” 

Kaukab Stewart, Scottish Government Minister for Culture and International Development, said: “As we raise the curtain on another Edinburgh International Festival, we’re reminded of the power of art to unite and inspire us all. More than 2,000 artists from 42 countries will exhibit their talents, and these extraordinary performances from a diverse range of cultures and traditions reaffirms Scotland’s place as the perfect stage to host major events.”

“As the new Minister for Culture, I’m proud to welcome the world to Scotland for the International Festival, and I’m looking forward to enjoying an abundance of exceptional entertainment taking place on our doorstep.” 

Arts and Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson said: For more than three quarters of a century, the Edinburgh International Festival has provided a platform for the world-class music and performing arts we are so proud to have in this country, as well as for brilliant artists and musicians from across the globe. The millions of people who flock to Edinburgh to enjoy and take part in it each year enrich our lives and fuel our shared economy. That’s why the UK Government is so proud to support it.”

“The arts have a unique power to bring us together, and to help us see the world through others’ eyes. I’m delighted that, this year, the International Festival will focus on the rituals that unite us – and look forward to seeing the diverse and dynamic work that theme inspires.”
Iain Munro, Chief Executive, Creative Scotland said: Nicola Benedetti continues to drive the Edinburgh International Festival programme forward in her second year as Director with another inspired artistic offering. This year’s thematic focus on unity and togetherness provides opportunities to blur the lines between artist and audience, promoting connection and communal experience in our increasingly divided world. The International Festival continues to earn its reputation as a shining light in the global cultural calendar by uniting people through great art.” 

This year’s Edinburgh International Festival will take place from Friday 2nd until Sunday 25th August 2024. To find out more about the festival, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop