Thursday, March 27, 2008

Festival Season in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is the most exciting place to be on the planet in August when Scotland’s capital hosts not one but six major festivals plus a spectacular Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle, which packs in over 8,000 people every night. Visitors flock from all over the globe to be amazed, stimulated and entertained or just revel in the giddy ambiance of a city that knows how to party.

The International Festival is the most established, offering three weeks of top class international talent from the worlds of music, dance, theatre and opera. The hottest musical ticket was the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. Conducted by the charismatic 26 year-old, Gustavo Dudamel, the 200-strong youth orchestra – including many musicians who were living in deprivation before being given the opportunity to learn music – wowed audiences with their dynamism and energy.

This year’s focus on early music has seen crowds flocking to Monteverdi’s madrigals, an inspired contemporary burlesque of his Poppea and the ravishing seventeenth century opera L’Orfeo conducted by Jordi Savall. The viola da gamba player came to fame with his film score for Tous Les Matins du Monde, starring Gerard Depardieu.


Bank of Scotland Fireworks Concert

Of course star spotting is de rigueur in Edinburgh with the film festival attracting a slew of celebrities. Among the stars on the red carpet this year were Stellan Skarsgard (Pirates of the Caribbean) promoting his horror film WAZ, the cult filmmaker, John Waters, for the UK premiere of This Filthy World and Julie Delpy, closing the festival with her romantic comedy Two Days in Paris. Actors Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe generated a lot of interest with their thriller Breach, written and directed by Billy Ray and based on a true story of a traitorous FBI agent.

Stories of every shape, form and genre provoke a variety of intense literary discussions at the Edinburgh Book Festival, the jewel in UNESCO City of Literature’s crown. This year, for the first time, those who couldn’t come still managed to make an appearance. Confused? Norman Mailer and Alice Munro were not only beamed live to the festival via satellite but were able to sign books thanks to an extraordinary invention by author Margaret Atwood called the Long Pen. As the name suggests, signatures appear on the page, as if by magic, thousands of miles away.

But for sheer originality and outlandishness, you can’t beat the Fringe Festival – there’s something here for everyone. ASW member Marysia Trembecka in her show, Find me a Primitive Man, dispensed valuable tips on dating and finally answered all our questions as to why so many women find David Beckham attractive.

-- Susan Nickalls

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