Edinburgh International and Fringe Festivals
Edinburgh is officially a city of 12 different festivals, but, with the Jazz and Blues Festival just finished, it is now the turn of the main events: the Fringe Festival (5-29 August) and the main International Festival (12 August-4 September), which overlap with the Art Festival (4 August-4 September), the Book Festival (13-29 August) and the Military Tattoo (5- August).
The International Festival includes a one-man King Lear, a version of The Tempest set in 5th-century Korea, an international two-part staging of One Thousand and One Nights and a rare production of Richard Strauss' lavish opera Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman without a Shadow), a symbolic folktale so strange that the fish in a frying pan turn out to be a chorus of unborn children.
It will also include two major exhibitions. Heirlooms juxtaposes historical and contemporary work to explore the complex interactions between the Indian and Javanese textile traditions, while Lightning Fields and Photogenic Drawings brings to Europe for the first time some of the most remarkable series by the Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, the former capturing the haunting effects produced by electrical charges from a van de Graaff generator when recorded on photographic film.
The Art Festival will include comprehensive shows looking at Five Centuries of Scottish Portraiture and Costume and Custom in Japanese Art. Chris Moore's Body of Evidence is a site-specific work that retraces the route once taken by cattle through the bottleneck of South Bridge, in the Cowgate. An exhibition at the Ingleby Gallery will ask whether conceptual artists are Mystics or Rationalists? And Hans Schabus: Remains of the Day is an installation bringing together all the rubbish accumulated by the Austrian artist and his family over the course of a year.
Themes flagged up at the Book Festival include Europe in the New Era, with sessions on "The end of Europe?", "Bearing witness to Germany's turbulent century" and "The literature of loss"; and Legends of Modern Literature, personal celebrations of the work of writers such as J.G. Ballard, James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, W.G. Sebald and Jules Verne. The many authors with academic links who will take to the stage include Julian Baggini, Simon Baron-Cohen, Linda Colley, Bettany Hughes and Robert Macfarlane.
The Edinburgh Fringe now claims to be the world's largest arts festival, with more than 2,500 shows in over 250 venues. It has long been dominated by comedy and a range of topics and titles where choice between the many newcomers can only be based on chance. AAA Stand-up has skilfully stolen first place in the alphabetical listing. Intriguing items include shows entitled Pope Benedict: Bond Villain and Alzheimer's the Musical: A Night to Remember! - not to mention a spaghetti-juggling contest.