Nicola Benedetti & Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Image Credit: Ryan Buchanan

Edinburgh International Festival

The one that started it all off. The Edinburgh International Festival is an unparalleled celebration of music, theatre, opera and dance performed across Edinburgh each August.

The Edinburgh International Festival runs from 04 to 27 August 2023.

About the Edinburgh International Festival

Festival Theatre Edinburgh During International Festival 2019
Image Credit: Ryan Buchanan

Since 1947, the Edinburgh International Festival has brought powerful and significant work to delight and challenge residents and visitors. Packed into just over 3 weeks are superb examples of artistic expression from around the world, with performances of top class opera, theatre, dance and music.

Experience some of Edinburgh’s grandest venues, and to complement the performances on offer, a range of participatory events, talks, screenings and conversations with the artists themselves.

The Festival’s impact extends beyond the annual programme: their community learning, engagement and professional development programmes run throughout the year, reaching the widest possible audiences and contributing to the cultural and social life of Edinburgh and Scotland.

History of the Edinburgh International Festival

You could argue that the Edinburgh International Festival was the one that started it all. In 1947, Rudolf Bing (at the time General Manager of the Glyndebourne Opera), Henry Harvey Wood from the British Council and leaders from Edinburgh banded together to collate a festival programme of music and drama.

Tasked with the job of encouraging the ‘flowering of the human spirit’ in post-war Scotland, and in the decades since, it has cultivated a veritable garden of human creativity. At the centre was the Edinburgh International Festival itself, which in turn inspired many of Edinburgh’s other festivals to establish their own presences – all helping to earn the Scottish capital its nickname, the festival city.

From the beginning, the organisers of the Edinburgh International Festival encouraged artists not part of the official programme to come to Edinburgh and perform. It was from these performances that the Edinburgh Festival Fringe was born, and even more diverse festivals followed. Now, Edinburgh is the proud host to twelve major festivals and a year-long schedule – making this truly the festival city!

Dance, opera, music and theatre

At the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) all of human experience is available for exploration, in performances that effortlessly combine the traditional and time-tested with inventive, modern techniques. Powerful theatre pieces delve into tragedy and war; sumptuous dances flirt with romance and heartbreak; opera singers project the sound of protest; orchestras transport us through vistas of religion, love and death.

Performers from across the world create a truly international festival experience. And as well as the international productions, EIF commissions the best Scottish companies to create new and expressive works that capture the national imagination, sparking discussion and allowing visitors to discover Scotland in new and inventive ways.

EIF is dedicated to being accessible to all. Relaxed, captioned, BSL-interpreted and audio-described performances are just some of the ways that the music, theatre, opera and dance of EIF can be enjoyed.

Highlights of the 2023 festival

With Nicola Benedetti appointed as Festival Director, the 76th edition of the Edinburgh International Festival looks to be an exciting experience.

Framed by a central question or statement and inspired by Martin Luther King Jr’s book of the same name, this year’s question is ‘Where do we go from here? The programme is split into three themes: Community over chaos, Hope in the face of adversity and A perspective that’s not one’s own.

Community over chaos takes its inspiration from those who have devoted their time to bringing communities together. The Opening Concert marks this with the Scottish premiere of Tan Dun’s Buddha Passion. Conducted by Dun himself, it will bring together the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, their Youth Chorus and the Edinburgh Festival Chorus for a celebratory performance.

Hope in the face of adversity focuses on extraordinary works of art that have been produced during a period of struggle and conflict. A highlight from this theme will be multi-Grammy® Award winner Thomas Quasthoff joining with the Amatis Trio for a recital of letters from the First World War accompanied by a range of modern music.

The final theme, A perspective that’s not one’s own, examines how, as individuals, we look at the world and how we can all gain a greater sense of tolerance. A piece from this is the work of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre who will be showcasing a wide range of dance performances, such as their signature piece Revelations, an homage to African American culture.

Discover more about the Edinburgh International Festival and plan your 2023 trip 

This page was created in collaboration with our friends at Festivals Edinburgh.

Explore Edinburgh’s festivals

Edinburgh has a jam-packed festival schedule all year around. Whether you love the arts, are mad about science, or relish the thought of getting lost in a good book, there’s a festival for you.