The theme of this year's Edinburgh International Festival is the Enlightenment, although as the festival's director Jonathan Mills explained to The Stage,
“The Enlightenment for me, very personally, is a point of departure only. It is a phrase I am using both metaphorically and quite literally. So I am searching for things that have been enlightening from Scotland and I am recognising the enlightenment as a movement that was able to be created here.”
Whatever. The credit crunch has bitten, and this year's programme is distinctly more conservative than last, with a noticeable lack of big names.
While focussing on the baroque, as the theme suggests, there are also generous nods to this year's Big Four anniversaries, Handel, Haydn, Purcell and Mendelssohn, though sadly no space for Martinu.
Conventional staged operas are thin on the ground. But there's a puppet version of Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, and Handel's Admeto, re di Tessaglia will be tackled samurai style by the director who set Munich's Rigoletto on the Planet of the Apes. Staatsoper Stuttgart bring an intriguing-sounding staging of a selection of Bach cantatas.
Concert performances include Purcell's Fairy Queen, and Handel's Judas Maccabaeus, Rinaldo (from Masaaki Suzuki's Bach Collegium) and Acis and Galatea. The vibrato ban will be lifted for Verdi's Macbeth (Lado Ataneli, Susan Neves, John Relyea and Massimo Giordano) by the BBCSSO and Der Fliegende Holländer (Franz Grundheber, Eva Johansson and Nikolai Schukoff) from Hamburg State Opera. Patricia Bardon heads the cast for the RSNO's performance of Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette.
Joyce DiDonato pops up in the OAE's Haydn programme, and Bryn Terfel visits the Usher Hall with Malcolm Martineau for a programme of British songs. Further recitals come from Willard White, Michael Volle, Christopher Maltman and Bejun Mehta.
The great Jordi Savall appears twice, with his ensembles Hespèrion XXI and Le Concert des Nations. For me, he was the highlight of the 2007 festival - can he do it again?
Full programme details here.
Public booking opens on 4 April, although according to The Scotsman, marketing deals struck by the Festival's organisers mean the best tickets are going to package tourists.