Aussie music man new head of fest

EDINBURGH – Australian composer and former Melbourne Intl. Arts Festival chief Jonathan Mills has been appointed artistic director of the Edinburgh Intl. Festival. Mills, 42, takes up his post in October, picking up the reins from Brian McMaster, who will step down after 15 years at the helm.

“Edinburgh is one of the only cities where you can have a festival that has a sense of festivity to it,” said Mills at a press conference on Feb. 27. “The festival means something to the whole world.”

The annual August festival is the up-market centerpiece of the Scottish capital’s summer program, running alongside the Book Festival, Film Festival and Fringe. Together they form the world’s largest arts festival.

Begun in 1947, the EIF presents classical concerts, opera, ballet and theater over three weeks. Most recently, it spawned David Harrower’s play “Blackbird,” directed by Peter Stein and starring Jodhi May and Roger Allam, which recently opened its West End transfer run at London’s Albery Theater.

As well as Stein, McMaster has developed close ties with artists and companies such as Calixto Bieito, Robert Wilson, Robert Lepage, Peter Sellars and New York Theater Workshop.

A music and architecture graduate, Mills won the Prix Italia in 2005 for his composition “Sandakan Threnody” and is a former director of the Brisbane Biennial Intl. Music Festival. He also has a theater pedigree, having headed the Melbourne Intl. Arts Festival, the Melbourne Federation Festival and the Melbourne Millennium Eve celebrations.

He insisted the drama program won’t be neglected in Edinburgh.

“At the Melbourne Festival, I commissioned plays and brought dance and theater companies such as the Wooster Group and Steppenwolf,” Mills says. “I was involved in a wide range of theater practice and, as a composer, I’ve worked with theater companies, contributing to their work.”

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