Edinburgh Festival more popular than ever at 60
By Kathrin Klette Aug 15, 2006, 11:24 GMT
London - From the outset the expectations from the Edinburgh Festival were high. In 1947 when the world was recovering from the wounds of war, many longed for a new beginning to international cultural exchange.
Scotland's capital, which had suffered less physical damage than many other European cities, fulfilled this wish early on.
The Edinburgh Festival is larger and more popular than ever as it celebrates its 60th anniversary on Sunday with a performance of Richard Strauss' opera Elektra.
The festival that arose out of the wish to provide a new 'platform for the human spirit to bloom' has become the largest summer cultural festival in the world with its almost 2,000 performances in more than 26o venues.
For three weeks in August every year Edinburgh offers concerts, opera, theatre, lectures and workshops often at reasonable rates.
The festival encompasses 10 other, smaller, festivals, among them the Edinburgh Fringe, one of the best known international art festivals.
One of the main themes of the festival is that high-quality events should be generally affordable.
'Excellence is for everyone,' says Brian McMaster, who is directing his last festival after 15 years in the job.
Even for the main concerts, tickets can be had for the equivalent of around 15 euros (19 dollars), and often entrance is free of charge.
Australian artist Ron Mueck, a rising star in the contemporary art scene, has drawn particular interest this year with his larger-than- life human figures.
Platform, the controversial novel by the equally controversial French author, Michel Houellebecq, is being put on as a play.
Edinburgh is this year, as always, good for a heated debate. Women have criticized Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, for a reading from his new book, The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs.
His female audience was angered by his description of an older woman who has taken a lover in his 20s, in which Welsh refers to the 'sagging corrugations' of her body and calls her a 'white witch.'
Accused of misogyny, Welsh responded: 'It is the foulness of old age - and it is horrible ... We are human, we are decomposing matter. That's what old age is like.'
Visitors do not hesitate to criticize the festival. Music lovers noted with disgust that John Adams' Chamber Symphony was the only work by a living composer.
And McMaster's idea of combining the works of various composers under different conductors was termed 'philistine.' He responded: 'We live in an era of culture tourism.'
The festival also has financial difficulties. Even though almost 50 per cent of its costs are covered by funding from the city authorities, debts have mounted to 1.5 million euros.
The incoming director, Jonathan Mills, will no longer be allowed to run over budget in terms of a new arrangement.
But a recently deceased festival patron has come to the rescue. An Irishwoman who visited every year has left the Edinburgh Festival almost 5 million euros in her will.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur