“Next year we have a reassertion of Edinburgh International Festival’s relationship to opera with three fully staged operas, of which Carmen is one, and two concert performances,” said Ms Benedetti. “That is an important statement for us to make in a year that has been quite precarious for opera in the UK.”
English National Opera recently lost its music director, conductor Martyn Brabbins, who resigned in response to planned cuts caused by a reduction in its funding from the Arts Council of England, which has also reduced its support for Welsh National Opera and Leeds-based Opera North.
The second Edinburgh Festival show to be announced is a new dance work, Assembly Hall, from Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite, whose piece Emergence was performed by Scottish Ballet at the 2016 Festival. It has just opened in Vancouver, and is a co-production between the EIF and Pite’s own company.
Ms Benedetti’s theme for the 2024 Festival is “Rituals That Unite Us”, inspired by the writings of German-based South Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han in his 2020 book The Disappearance of Rituals.
“In audience feedback in response to the question we asked this year, Where Do We Go From Here?, people asked that the Festival finds things that unite us, where different opinions and stances are left at the door,” Ms Benedetti said.
“Our Festival is a place where diversity can still find collective ritual behaviour, where we go into a space with humility and curiosity to hear someone’s creation that is not ours.
“With all the lazy choosing of this side versus that side that is going on at the moment, we have to stand for the place that is open to a multitude of perspectives. It is our reason for being and the foundation of the Festival.”
German director Andreas Homoki’s production of Carmen will have three performances and will recreate the stage of the Opera-Comique in Paris in Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre. Gaelle Arquez is in the title role, Saimir Pirgu is Don Jose, Elbenita Kajtazikbi is Micaela and Jean-Fernand Sett is Escamillo.
The general director of the Opera-Comique, Louis Langree, will conduct the Scottish Chamber Orchestra for the performances, reviving a relationship established on stage and in the recording studio more than a decade ago. The orchestra will also be responsible for one of the Festival’s opera concerts, continuing its series of Mozart operas at the Usher Hall under Principal Conductor Maxim Emelyanychev.
“Carmen is an absolutely incredible production and it is great to have the collaboration with Scottish artists in the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. It’ll be musically and dramatically fantastic,” said Ms Benedetti.
Crystal Pite’s Assembly Hall is explicitly concerned with the ritual of gathering together and follows a group of medieval re-enactors coming to their annual meeting in hard times. It will also have three performances at the Festival Theatre.
EIF Creative director Roy Luxford, who will see the show in Montreal next week, said: “We’ve been involved with it over the last year or so and it is very different from Pite’s previous dance work for Scottish Ballet. It sees her working closely with text and exploring verbal vocabulary as well as the vocabulary of movement.”
Assembly Hall will be seen at Sadlers Wells in London earlier next year, en route to the Festival performances.
In 2024 the Festival will also be collaborating with the World Health Organisation and Scottish Ballet to host Healing Arts Scotland, a country-wide event celebrating and advocating for improved physical, mental and social health through the arts, which will run for a week from August 19, 2024.
Welcoming the increased opera content of the Festival’s programme, Mr Luxford said: “Last year we were still coming out of lockdown and Covid and the ability to mobilise international opera on to our stages was impacted. We’re looking forward to having opera on our main stages in 2024.”
He added: “The Festival programme always strives to be as ambitious and positive as we can make work within our financial parameters. The funding outlook has not much changed, but we wait to see the detail on some of the positive statements we’ve heard recently.”
The full programme for the 2024 Edinburgh International Festival will be announced in March of next year, with priority booking for Festival friends and supporters opening shortly thereafter.