There's a 'New World' flavour to the 2010 Edinburgh International Festival programme, announced yesterday. A strong Latin element will spice up the dance programme, there's experimental theatre and twentieth century music from the US, but the principal beneficiary will be festival director Jonathan Mills's own homeland of Australia.
The Festival's centrepiece in fact is a new ozpera. Brett Dean's Bliss is based on Peter Carey's novel and in true aussie style "contains coarse language and adult themes". Sydney Symphony Ozchestra pay a visit, and works by contemporary Australian composers sneakily pepper the concert and recital programmes.
I can't say any of that appeals too much, but the rest of the fest is a distinct improvement on last year's disappointing package (which I am not surprised to learn sold less well than the year before).
Amongst an impressively broad opera programme, Carl Heinrich Graun's Montezuma (libretto by Frederick the Great!) stands out as a must-see rarity, Opéra de Lyon's Porgy and Bess perhaps less so.
Operas in concert are Idomeneo (Kurt Streit, Joyce DiDonato, Rosemary Joshua, Emma Bell with the SCO conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras), La fanciulla del West (Susan Bullock, Marcus Haddock, Juha Uusitalo with the Orchestra of Scottish Opera conducted by Francesco Corti), The Indian Queen (Gillian Keith, Robin Blaze, John Mark Ainsley, Allan Clayton, Roderick Williams and The Sixteen) and L'heure espagnole (Sophie Koch, Johannes Weisser and the RSNO conducted by Stéphane Denève).
Hidden away in the theatre programme is The Gospel at Colonus, a musical adaptation of Sophocles’s tragedy Oedipus at Colonus featuring The Blind Boys of Alabama and a host of other gospel singers. And there's a super-rare opportunity to see living legend vocal musician Meredith Monk and her Songs of Ascension.
Visiting orchestras, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra with Mariss Jansons aside, are not hugely inspiring - Russian National Orchestra, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (a Nielsen-heavy programme), Cleveland Orchestra with Welser-Möst and Minnesota Orchestra. I like the sound of Robin Ticciati's programme with the SCO: Rebel, a Kevin Volans world premiere, Poulenc's Concerto for 2 pianos and Bizet's Symphony in C. The closing concert, Mahler 8 from Donald Runnicles and the BBCSSO, looks to be the best of the bunch.
There are recitals from Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham and Sarah Connolly (singing jazz!), Magdalena Kožená, Christianne Stotijn, Simon Keenlyside, Gerald Finley, Joan Rodgers and Roderick Williams.
And the great Edinburgh favourite, world's greatest musician, etc Jordi Savall returns with his Hespèrion XXI.
Public booking opens on 27 March. The good stuff is, as usual, sprinkled evenly over the festival's three weeks, so the difficulty (for me) will be deciding what to fit in to a brief visit. The consolation is, again as usual, that some of the visitors will be making their way to the Proms. But which ones?