March 23, 2011 5:58 pm

Edinburgh festival to honour Asian influence

This summer’s Edinburgh International Festival will seek to build a bridge between Asia and Europe by featuring artists from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.

Details of this year’s festival, running from August 12 to September 4, have been announced. Commenting on them, Jonathan Mills, the festival’s director, said: “European artists, explorers and philosophers have drawn inspiration from the Far East for centuries. This festival draws inspiration from the diverse cultures of Asia – from Vietnam to China.”

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One production to bring together east and west will be the Peony Pavilion, performed by the National Ballet of China with western classical ballet, a classic symphony orchestra and traditional Chinese instruments. It is based on a love story by one of China’s greatest writers, Tang Xianzu, a contemporary of Shakespeare.

The Tempest will be re-imagined by Mokwha Repertory Company from Seoul in a production that weaves Shakespeare’s play with fifth-century Korean chronicles.

In another adaptation of Shakespeare, Shanghai Peking Opera Troupe retells the familiar tale of Hamlet, setting it in China and performing the tragedy in the acrobatic and elaborately costumed style of Jingju opera.

Scottish Ballet and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra will perform Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s ballet The Song of the Earth, set to Gustav Mahler’s song cycle inspired by Chinese poetry from the Tang Dynasty.

Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Opera will bring a large scale production by Jonathan Kent, designed by Paul Brown, of Richard Strauss’s epic opera Die Frau ohne Schatten, spanning life on earth and in the spirit world.

Mr Mills said Debussy, Mahler, Messiaen and Schumann were each inspired by the colours and sounds of Asia, and their music would be explored by artists across the festival.

Orchestras taking part this year include the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchestra, Freiburg Baroque Orchestra and the Yogyakarta Court Gamelan.

The fireworks concert that provides a traditional finale to the festival has found a new sponsor in Virgin Money, the financial services division of the Virgin Group, which is expanding from a new base in Edinburgh.

It takes over that role from Bank of Scotland, which is now part of Lloyds Banking Group, though both Bank of Scotland and Royal Bank of Scotland continue as corporate friends of the festival. Besides Virgin Money, HSBC and Shell UK will sponsor festival productions for the first time.

Mr Mills said this meant the festival’s corporate sponsorship was very healthy, in what was a very challenging environment.

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