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Manchester International Festival 2011 Launch

Published by: Caroline May on 17th Mar 2011 | View all blogs by Caroline May
Manchester International Festival today announced the full programme of new and specially commissioned work to be premiered in the city this summer.

The festival includes the previously announced play by Victoria Wood at Manchester Opera House; the collaboration between Marina Abramovic, Willem Dafoe, Robert Wilson and Antony (of Antony & the Johnsons) at The Lowry; and Mark Elder and the Hallé playing Wagner’s Die Walkure at the Bridgewater Hall.

There will also be exciting contributions from major international artists in every conceivable field.  And speaking of fields, the festival is going to have its very own sustainable, carbon-neutral farm supplying the Albert Square café.  However, far from being a verdant urban oasis, the vertical farm is situated in a disused tower block in the city; the project is intended to run up to the 2013 event.

Returning to the UK, the iconoclastic Icelandic singer-songwriter Bjork has been developing Biophilia (love of nature) for three years.  This melding of music, nature and science, which is only now possible thanks to recent developments in technology, will be performed at Campfield Market Hall next to the Museum of Science and Industry for comparatively intimate audiences of only 1800.  As well as creating the first “App Album”, the multi-media interactive shows include specially invented instruments such as a 30-foot high pendulum.

Blur’s Damon Albern and director Rufus Norris have focussed their attention on the Elizabethan code breaker, mathematician, astronomer, astrologer and magician Doctor John Dee.  With live music on authentic period instruments and West African drums, and featuring 20 orchestral players, the project defies explanation but intriguingly we are promised magic, tunes and anthems.  Doctor Dee will also be seen at the Olympic Festival in June 2012.

In addition to the festival’s brief of commissioning world premieres, this time the artists have also been encouraged to re-imagine and reinterpret iconic events from the past.  Victoria Wood’s new play That Day We Sang is set in 1969 when a Granada TV documentary is marking the 40th anniversary of the legendary Manchester School Children’s Choir’s recording of Nymphs and Shepherds Come Away.  Switching between the two eras, the play is a love story about a pair of middle-aged people who might have a second chance in life.

Punchdrunk are taking over the Media City plaza on Salford Quays to create their first event for children, The Crash of the Elysium.  Aimed at an audience aged between 6 and 12 years, their co-conspirators include BBC North, BBC Wales and Steven Moffatt, and although the subject matter is super-secret they promise it’s something all will children love.

Art events include a range of activities both inside and outside the Whitworth Art Gallery, a group show at Manchester Art Gallery, and an LED wall in Lincoln Square.

Acknowledging Manchester’s place in musical history, both pop and classical, musicians at the festival include Sinead O’Conner, Snoop Dogg, Ricky Lee Jones, Alina Ibragimova and Paul Heaton (ex The Housemartins and The Beautiful South); and Sacred Sites brings internationally renowned performers of sacred song and recital to five different faith communities in Manchester.

The Pavilion Theatre on Albert Square will host an eclectic range of work and artists, with Johnny Vegas performing on stage for one week with his new show.

Promising something for everyone, and with at least one third of the tickets free, the 2011 Manchester International Festival sounds like a great proposition for this summer.

30 June-17 July 2011
Various venues, Manchester and Salford



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