The Edinburgh International Festival 2007, which draws performers from all around the world, opens tonight (10 August 2007) with a special concert production of Candide at the Usher Hall with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, beginning a programme of opera, dance, theatre and music running until 2 September (See News, 28 Mar 2007).

One of the top highlights of the Festival is the return of multi-award winning actor Alan Cumming to the Scottish stage after 16 years. He will star as Dionysus opposite Tony Curran as his nemesis Pentheus in the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of The Bacchae. John Tiffany, award-winning director of last year’s hugely successful Black Watch, takes his production to the King’s Theatre from 11-18 August as part of the International Festival before touring to the Theatre Royal, Glasgow and the Lyric Hammersmith, London (See News, 18 Apr 2007).

Dionysus - icon and hedonist - has come home with his cult of female Bacchae to clear his mother's name. A charismatic, forceful figure, his very presence enraptures the local women, awakening their own bacchic spirit. They worship him and perform his sensual rituals with a fierce, animalistic devotion.

Other performances include Beowolf performed in Old England with harp and song by storyteller Benjamin Bagby, the UK premiere of Poppea - a contemporary remix of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea performed in German, and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe conducted by Thomas Adès who has previously composed and conducted his own adaptation of The Tempest at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. There will also be a number of “Conversations with Artists”, including a session with Alan Cumming, David Greig and John Tiffany – the team responsible for NTS’ The Bacchae.

Other festivals, such as the Edinburgh Fringe, grew up around the International Festival. But unlike the Fringe, performance at the Edinburgh International Festival is strictly by invitation only, issued by the Festival Director Jonathan Mills who was appointed in October 2006. The Edinburgh International Festival was established in 1947, in the wake of the Second World War, to “enliven and enrich” European culture, as well as creating a new and very economically beneficial tourist attraction for Edinburgh and Scotland.

- by Tom Atkins