One of the most remarkable things about the pandemic was the speed and skill with which artists adapted to a new, socially-distanced reality. Almost as soon as the initial shock of the first lockdown had subsided, it seemed, musicians had started experimenting with different kinds of online performance, and they were soon joined by theatre-makers, dancers and more. As the world stumbled from one Covid-19 variant to the next, people stuck at home found solace in simple, small-scale entertainments on their phone screens, often recorded in kitchens, living rooms and gardens. Art, like life, tends to find a way.
But while the internet provided a vital medium through which artists could continue to connect with audiences, it was never going to be a real substitute for the buzz of a live, in-person event. For one thing, those magical moments of communal emotion you get in a theatre or concert hall simply don’t transfer into cyberspace – the electricity in the air as a conductor first raises his baton; the ripple of laughter at a shared joke; the roar of approval as the curtain falls. And, of course, the thing we’ve been most deprived of since the spring of 2020 has been the immersive sensory overload of a genuine live spectacle.
Happily, this year’s 75th Edinburgh International Festival programme is packed with shows that offer exactly this kind of wonder, from the striking acrobatics of opening night event MACRO and the visual feast promised by Garsington Opera’s Rusalka, to the large-cast production of S Shakthidharan’s play Counting and Cracking, the inventive technical wizardry of Scottish Ballet’s new take on Coppélia and the Philadelphia Orchestra’s closing concert, taking place both on the mighty stage at the Edinburgh Playhouse and on a giant screen in Princes Street Gardens. We hope you have a spectacular August.