Hamburg Opera, Joyce DiDonato, Bryn Terfel visit Edinburgh Festival 2009

Handel, Haydn and Purcell anniversaries celebrated in extensive coverage

25 March 2009

Simone YoungThis year's Edinburgh International Festival has just been announced, with a typically eclectic line-up from 14 August to 6 September.

Operas by Handel inevitably dominate the programme in token of the composer's anniversary year, but we can also look forward to Verdi, Wagner and Monteverdi and visits from the Hamburg and Stuttgart opera companies. Additionally, a wide range of concerts, with visits by Bryn Terfel, the OAE, the SCO, The Sixteen and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, completes an excellent line-up of classical music.

The EIF gets underway with a performance of Handel's Judas Maccabaeus on 14 August, featuring an outstanding line-up of singers under William Christie: Rosemary Joshua, Sarah Connolly and Neal Davies are amongst the stars. The same composer's Rinaldo comes to the festival on 24 August with Bach Collegium Japan, and the Gottingen International Handel Festival bring both their reimagining of Admeto and Mendelssohn's version of Acis and Galatea from 28 to 31 August. A nod to the Purcell anniversary brings us The Fairy Queen on 4 September, and Staatsoper Stuttgart present a special production called Actus Tragicus on 4 and 5 September, using the music of Bach.

A puppet version of Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'Ulisse from 23 to 26 August completes the Early music programme, but the Hamburg Opera's concert performance of The Flying Dutchman with Simone Young and Franz Grundheber on 1 September and the BBC SSO's concert of Verdi's Macbeth with Lado Ataneli on 21 August help to leaven the bread with high Romantic repertoire. There's also an intriguing creation called St Kilda from 15-17 August, mixing Gaelic song with contemporary music, film and acrobats.

Music-wise, there's a wide range of concerts on offer. Vocal recitals by Lisa Milne, Willard White, Christopher Maltman and Bejun Mehta are contrasted with the period-instrument Orchestra des Champs-Elysees under Philippe Herreweghe. Esa-Pekka Salonen brings the Philharmonia on 19 August in a programme mixing Bartok with Salonen's own music, Bryn Terfel visits on 23 August for a recital, and Sir Roger Norrington brings the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment on 22 August in a programme of Haydn that also includes Joyce DiDonato perfoming the Scena di Berenice.

The European Union Baroque Orchestra promises an intriguing concert on 25 August, boosting its size to 60 players to perform music by Handel and Corelli, while the Scottish Chamber Orchestra's visits this year include a concert with Sir Charles Mackerras, Rebecca Evans and Robert Murray on 26 August. Dawn Upshaw makes a rare UK performance on 27 August with the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, performing Berio's Folksongs, and Berlioz's Romeo et Juliette is performed complete on 28 August with Patricia Bardon and the RSNO. The Emerson String Quartet, the English Baroque Soloists and the Hallé under Mark Elder are just three of the other ensembles performing at the Festival.

On the whole, there's much to look forward to here, with a nice mix of chamber and orchestral music, but it's noticeable that no front-line international orchestras are appearing, in contrast to previous years. On the other hand, it's perhaps no bad thing that a large number of period-instrument specialists has been brought in to celebrate the anniversaries of Handel, Purcell and Haydn, and connoisseurs of their music will surely be delighted.

by Dominic McHugh

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