The 2004 Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) officially opened yesterday in the Scottish capital (See News, 10 Dec 2003). EIF - the parent to the much larger and more chaotic Edinburgh Fringe, which opened last weekend - runs from 15 August to 5 September 2004 this year with its mix of opera, ballet, music and theatre from around the globe.

Theatrical highlights of this year’s programme include: an 11-hour French theatrical marathon, Le Soulier de Satin (The Satin Slipper); a new Birmingham Repertory Theatre production of Fernando de Rojas’ Celestina, with controversial Spaniard Calixto Bieito directing a cast that includes Kathryn Hunter in the title role; Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, performed in German in a Berliner Ensemble production directed by Peter Zadek; Racine’s Andromache, also performed in German; a celebration of Rossini’s life, The Composer, the Singer, the Cook and the Sinner; and a new play by British playwright Anthony Neilson, The Wonderful World of Dissocia, presented by Glasgow’s Tron Theatre in a co-production with the Theatre Royal Plymouth and the International Festival.

EIF 2004 also features a full programme of opera, dance and classical music. Other programme highlights include stagings of Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande, Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice and Britten's War Requiem. The granddaddy of them all, the Edinburgh International Festival 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 nearly 1,700 shows presented. This year's Fringe opened on 8 August and continues to 30 August 2004 (See News, 6 Aug 2004).

- by Terri Paddock

For more information on this year’s Festival and tips on planning your trip to Edinburgh, see “Pointing North: An Edinburgh Checklist” (Features, 9 Aug 2004).