The third biennial Manchester International Festival (MIF) was launched today (17 March 2011) with an event at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry.

Held this year from 30 June to 17 July, MIF will present more than 20 commissions, premieres and special events including a biography of the grandmother of performance art Marina Abramovic directed by Robert Wilson; Punchdrunk's first production created for young people The Crash of The Elysium; a "Manchester love story" by comic Victoria Wood; and new theatre piece written by stand-up Johnny Vegas.

MIF has commissioned Victoria Wood to write and direct That Day We Sang which tells the story of two Mancunians whose lives have passed them by reliving the day in 1929 when, as members of the Manchester School Children’s Choir, they recorded Nymphs and Shepherds with the Hallé Orchestra. Set in 1969, this major new work will feature a specially formed Manchester Children’s Choir and members of the Hallé Youth Orchestra.

Wood, one of the UK's favourite stand-ups, wrote the iconic 1980's BBC sit-com Dinnerladies. Her stage debut Talent won the Plays and Players Award and the Evening Standard Award for the Most Promising Playwright. A BAFTA and National Television Award-winner, her more recent credits include the musical Acorn Antiques which opened at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in February 2005 prior to a national tour. That Day We Sang, which will run from 6 to 16 July 2011 at Manchester Opera House, is designed by Lez Brotherston with musical direction by Nigel Lilley.

Following the sell-out success of Marina Abramović Presents at MIF two years ago, the Festival will present a The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic, a biography of the grandmother of performance art reimagined by director Robert Wilson.

The production, which will be the first Wilson has staged in the UK since The Temptation of St Anthony in 2005, will feature scenes from Abramović’s life and career, from her Serbian childhood to her work as a performance artist. Billed as a "once-in-a generation cultural event", the performance will star Marina Abramovic, Willem Dafoe and an international cast of actors and performance artists.

Abramović's 2009 production Marina Abramović Presents saw the artist lead audiences through an exhilarating four hours of live art at the Whitworth Art Gallery. Many of the artists featured in that performance will also take part in Life and Death. An artists who has withstood pain, exhaustion and danger in her quest for emotional and spiritual transformation, her 2010 show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors.

The production will run at the Lowry from 9 to 16 July 2011 prior to transferring to Madrid in April 2012.

Immersive theatre pioneers Punchdrunk return to MIF following the success of their 2009 production It Felt Like A Kiss with their first work created specifically for young people. Aimed at children aged six to 12, MIF and the BBC will present The Crash of The Elysium at their new production base, MediaCityUK Studios at Salford Quays.

Created by Punchdrunk artistic director Felix Barrett and BAFTA-nominated screenwriter and author Tom MacRae, the piece is based on an original idea by Doctor Who writer and producer Steven Moffatt.

The Crash of The Elysium, which has design by Livi Vaughan with Beatrice Minns, lighting by Paul Normandale and sound by Stephen Dobbie, will run from 1 to 17 July 2011.

Stand-up comic Johnny Vegas returns to the MIF with a new theatre piece which will be presented at the Festival's own Pavilion Theatre. Following the success of his darkly comic Interiors which was part of the inaugural festival, Vegas' new show will run from 11 to 17 July 2011. Further details of the piece have still to be announced with the comic saying he was "reluctant to discuss the concept”.

Elsewhere in the eclectic festival line-up highlights include a three-week residency by Icelandic pop-star Björk whose new live show, Biophilia are her first UK dates for in three years. American rapper Snoop Dogg will also perform at the MIF, with the first live UK performance of his album Doggystyle.


Full listing information about this year's Manchester International Festival can be found on the MIF website.