The Barber of Seville / credit: Théâtre des Champs-Elysées
The best of Bernstein, Brahms, Hungarian classical and Wagner's Ring Cycle among the classical highlights
The Edinburgh International Festival offers a feast of classical and opera. With productions, performers and composers from across the world descending on the city it can be tricky to unpick the programme, so here's our five favourite shows coming to this year's EIF.
The Barber of Seville
Among all of Rossini's comic operas, The Barber of Seville is the jewel in the crown. With its array of larger than life characters getting into all sorts of farcical scrapes, the music and libretto are full of exuberant energy, with Figaro, the multi-tasking, entrepreneurial barber, at the centre of all its wit and colour. Taken from the first of French playwright Beaumarchais's trilogy centred around Figaro (Mozart's Marriage of Figaro is the same character, but from the second play), The Barber of Seville is seen in a new production straight from the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. Setting it apart from other stagings is conductor Jérémie Rhorer, who brings his own period-instrument orchestra to the pit. The Barber of Seville, Festival Theatre, 5, 7 & 8 Aug, 7.15pm, £28--£96.
If there's anyone still to be convinced of the merits of concert performances of operas that were originally intended to be fully staged, then Sir Mark Elder's Siegfried will be the sure-fire event to make minds change. Following last year's sensational Die Walküre, the International Festival continues its presentation of Wagner's Ring Cycle with the Hallé Orchestra and an impressive lineup of soloists returning to Edinburgh as part of this four year project. Described as 'the Wagnerian tenor of his generation', New Zealander Simon O'Neill is the hero who knows no fear, who puts together pieces of his father's sword to slay a dragon, who gains the cursed ring of the cycle's title and who brings the opera to a close by waking – and falling for – the Valkyrie Brunnhilde, giving her the ring to prove his love. It's heady stuff. For five and a half hours. Siegfried, Usher Hall, 8 Aug, 4.30pm, £20--£60.
Marc-André Hamelin / credit: Sim Cannety Clarke
Takács Quartet and Marc-André Hamelin
Two chances to hear this extremely distinguished Hungarian string quartet, who are reputedly so reliant on each other that they've taken out life insurance on each of their lives. Across two complementary Queen's Hall mornings, they perform one piece each day by Mozart, Dvořák and Dohnányi. From the latter are Piano Quintets No 1 and 2, for which the quartet are joined by Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin, who appeared with the SCO at last year's festival. Lots of Hungarian gutsy folk tunes, lush melodies and dancing rhythms abound in the Dvořák and Dohnányi repertoire, while the Mozart string quartets introduce each programme with typical grace, wit and lyricism. Takács Quartet and Marc-André Hamelin, Queen's Hall, 10 & 11 Aug, 11am, £11--£34.
Robin Ticciati conducts Brahms Cycle
Unbelievable though it may seem to Scottish audiences, conductor Robin Ticciati, who was appointed principal conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra at the age of only 26, conducts his final concerts with the SCO in two concerts at the Usher Hall. Since his first appearance in Edinburgh with the orchestra in 2009, Ticciati has been a much-cherished figure who will be greatly missed, but will surely return. For his swansong, he goes all out on Brahms, programming Symphonies Nos 1 and 3 one night, and Nos 2 and 4 the next. Robin Ticciati conducts Brahms Cycle, Usher Hall, 18 & 19 Aug, 7.45pm, £15--£47
A Bernstein Celebration
On the date that marks exactly 100 years since the birth of the legendary composer, conductor, pianist, writer and lecturer who is American music personified, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra – making its Edinburgh Festival debut – celebrates Leonard Bernstein with music director Marin Alsop. A conducting student of the great man himself, Alsop is renowned for her highly charged performances. West Side Story Symphonic Dances sit alongside three dances from Broadway musical On the Town and the more reflective Serenade for orchestra and violin. Putting Nicola Benedetti into the mix as soloist means that tickets will be like proverbial gold dust. In the morning, Hebrides Ensemble are at the Queen's Hall with Bernstein for smaller forces. A Bernstein Celebration, Usher Hall, 25 Aug, 7.45pm, £15--£47.
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Robin Ticciati Conductor
Brahms Symphony No 1
Brahms Symphony No 3
Revelatory performances, teeming with telling detail, inviting you to experience well-loved works as if for the first time.
Robin Ticciati has been celebrated worldwide as Principal Conductor of the Scottish Chamber…
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Robin Ticciati Conductor
Brahms Symphony No 2
Brahms Symphony No 4
Mercurial, magical, constantly surprising. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Robin Ticciati have enjoyed one of the music world’s most joyfully symbiotic partnerships, admired across the globe.
To mark his very final…
Deceit and deception; trickery and disguise – and all in the name of love.
Dashing young Count Almaviva falls desperately in love with the ravishing Rosina, locked away by her lecherous guardian Dr Bartolo – who has designs on her himself, as soon as she comes of age…
Step in Figaro, Almaviva’s expert barber and…
A hero who knows no fear. A sword that cannot break. A love so strong it conquers immortality.
Following last year’s ecstatically received Die Walküre, the third instalment of the International Festival’s four-year Ring cycle leads us ever deeper into Wagner’s vast mythological universe, introducing us to the greatest…
Marc-André Hamelin Piano
Mozart String Quartet in D K575
Dvořák String Quartet in F Op 96 ‘The American’
Dohnányi Piano Quintet No 1
The glorious, golden melodies of Dvořak’s ‘The American’ Quartet, understandably one of the composer’s most cherished works, provide the centrepiece for the first of…
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop Conductor
Jean-Yves Thibaudet Piano
*Stravinsky * The Firebird Suite (1919)
*Gershwin * Piano Concerto
Schumann Symphony No 2
Driven, demanding, brilliantly energetic, US conductor Marin Alsop creates performances that blaze with conviction. She is also famously a…