Edinburgh International Festival’s 2011 programme will feature an increased focus on dance, as the event looks to the East for inspiration.
In staged performances, the festival balances six dance programmes with four plays and three operas. Concert performances include two operas as well as 41 individual concerts and several further special events. There is also a strong supporting programme of masterclasses, debates and conversations with participating artists.
Defending the festival’s balance, EIF director Jonathan Mills told The Stage: “I don’t tend to programme by weight of genres, I don’t have quotas, but I have an eye for interesting projects. I would like to get rid of categories altogether but we decided to keep them because it is a very helpful way of assisting our audience in thinking about the work.”
As well as four European premieres, there are three world premieres – Scottish Ballet is staging a new piece by Jorma Elo to music by Mozart and Reich, Stephen Earnhart and Greg Pierce have adapted Haruki Murakami’s novel the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle for the stage, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra will perform an EIF commission by Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa.
Mills explained that the programme is “an attempt to start to think about relationships that can be properly explored between Europe and Asia”.
He added: “The fact that the original dramatist of the Peony Pavilion was an exact contemporary of Shakespeare started me on a trajectory thinking we should have some Shakespeare, because he is a huge influence on Asia.
“It was very important for me not only to find Asian influences on Europe but European influences on Asia, so there is a reciprocity at the core of this festival.”
Such an attitude means that the Oriental influence is not always obvious. The second Scottish Ballet piece is Kenneth MacMillan’s Song of the Earth, danced to Mahler’s setting of texts from the T’ang Dynasty, which will be performed by the RSNO. The two pieces have received funding from the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund.
The main event of the theatre programme is the European premiere of a new, six-hour, two-part production of One Thousand and One Nights, dramatised and directed by Tim Supple. Using actors from across the Arab speaking world, the production re-examines the origins of Shahrazad’s brutal, erotic and exotic stories.
The influence of Shakespeare on Oriental culture is is explored in the European premiere of a production of The Tempest by the Mokwha Repertory Company, transported to 5th century Korea. Taiwanese performer Wu Hsing-Kuo also delivers a one-man adaptation of King Lear.
Shakespeare’s influence is further explored by the Shanghai Peking Opera Troupe, which is making its UK debut with The Revenge of Prince Zi Dan, which is loosely based on Hamlet. Elsewhere in the opera programme, the Vlaamse Opera perform Rossini’s Semiramide and Mariinsky Opera stage Richard Strauss’ The Woman Without a Shadow in a production directed by Jonathan Kent and designed by Paul Brown.
Central to the dance programme is the National Ballet of China performing the European premiere of The Peony Pavilion, while New York-based choreographer Shen Wei’s Re trilogy are brought together for the first time. French-Vietnamese choreographer Ea Sola’s re-creates her critically acclaimed meditation on the human cost of war – Drought and Rain.
Of the special events, the Philip Glass Ensemble will be accompanying Godfrey Reggio’s Quatsi trilogy of films, with Glass himself in conversation. While last year’s winners of the International Festival Fringe prize, cabaret artist Meow Meow and director Cora Bissett, will be premiering their new work.
Mills added: “The reciprocal influence between Asian and European artists is a very important one because it demonstrates the kind of negotiations, the kind of international spirit that was behind this festival in the he first place. It says something else as well about an increasingly important part of the world that we live in.”
EIF 2011 runs August 12 – September 4.
Further details on www.eif.co.uk