Jonathan Mills has announced his first programme for the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) - the parent to the much larger and more chaotic Edinburgh Fringe – which runs this year from 10 August to 2 September 2007 across the city in theatres, concert halls and opera houses.

The programme for the 61st annual EIF, launched by Mills - who takes the helm this year after previous director Brian McMaster announced he was stepping down last year (See News, 22 Mar 2006) – includes Alan Cumming (pictured) making his EIF debut starring in National Theatre of Scotland’s production of The Bacchae, in the world premiere of a new version by David Greig, directed by John Tiffany (who won this year’s Critics’ Circle Best Director award for last year’s Black Watch for NTS).

After a long absence (See News, 14 Jul 2006), Cumming returned to the West End last autumn in Daniel Kramer’s revival of Martin Sherman’s 1978 play Bent, for which he was nominated for Best Actor in this year’s Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards. The Scottish actor's stage credits include extensive early work at the Tron Theatre and Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum, and, in London, Conquest of the South Pole, La Bete, Hamlet and Accidental Death of an Anarchist, for which he won an Olivier for Comedy Performance of the Year. He’s best remembered by theatregoers for Sam Mendes’ Donmar Warehouse revival of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret, which transferred to Broadway, where he won a Tony Award for his performance as the Kit Kat Klub’s emcee.

Since his 1998 success with Cabaret, Cumming had been based mainly in the US where his other stage credits have included Design for Living, Elle and The Threepenny Opera. His film credits include Sweet Land, Spy Kids, X2, Nicholas Nickleby, Titus, Eyes Wide Shut, Emma, Circle of Friends, Annie and the soon to be released Ant Bully.


Other theatre highlights at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival include: Vienna Schauspielhaus’ Poppea, directed by Barrie Kosky, and the Wooster Group’s La Didone, which marry music and theatre through the inspiration of early opera; the UK premiere of the acclaimed Mabou Mines DollHouse directed by Lee Breuer; American Repertory Theatre’s modern take on the Orpheus myth in Orpheus X, receiving its European premiere; and an international collaboration between Theatre Cryptic and Singapore’s T’ang Quartet.

In addition to theatrical productions, 2007 EIF attractions include: the Festival debuts of Olivier Award-winning Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu performing On Danse and the Trisha Brown Dance Company with a spread of her works over 20 years, including the UK premiere of Canto/Pianto; a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the first major opera with a traditional production of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, directed by Gilbert Deflo and conducted by Jordi Savall; the world premiere of a new production of Richard Strauss’ Capriccio by Cologne Opera, starring Gabriele Fontana, conducted by Markus Stenz and directed and designed by Christian von Götz and Gabriele Jänicke; and a series of early evening concerts following the development of music from the 11th to the 17th century.

Mills said in a statement today: “Festivals are a gift; a special gift from a city to itself, to its citizens, to its visitors, to its future, to its very soul. In planning this, my first year’s programme, my inspiration was Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo - not just as a celebration of its 400th anniversary, but as an exploration of its legacy still alive in the work of artists today. I hope audiences will have a fantastic time at the Festival. There is a broad range of artists, styles and work, from the deeply serious to the seriously fun, which I hope will appeal to everyone. I look forward to welcoming both locals and visitors to Edinburgh in August.”

More than half a million people plan their August holidays each year around a trip to Edinburgh. The granddaddy of them all, EIF is just one of some seven festivals that overtake the Scottish city in August. The others are the Edinburgh Film Festival, Book Festival, Jazz & Blues Festival, Visual Arts Festival, the Military Tattoo and, of course, its main spin-off, the Edinburgh Fringe which, on its own, qualifies as the world's largest arts festival, with over 1,500 shows presented annually.

EIF tickets for 2007 go on sale to the public on Saturday 14 April 2007. To access the full 2007 Edinburgh Fringe programme - as well as online booking - visit the festival website.

- by Caroline Ansdell