March 17, 2010 / 5:00 PM / 9 years ago

Edinburgh Festival follows the sun to the Americas

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - The Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) spreads its wings westwards this year to bring to the Scottish capital the flamboyant and exciting cultures of the Americas and Australasia.

Performers from Japanese drumming troupe Tao perform during a media event ahead of their forthcoming show at the Edinburgh International Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland August 7, 2009. REUTERS/David Moir

“As these diverse cultures, separated by vast oceans, converge in Edinburgh, I hope you will join us to celebrate the synergies and revelations they offer,” the festival’s Australian director Jonathan Mills said at the 2010 program launch on Wednesday.

The program, which includes a rich offering of opera, dance, theater and music, runs from August 13 to September 5. Public booking opens on March 27, with online bookings accessible through

It opens with the oratorio El Nino by acclaimed American composer John Adams at Edinburgh’s refurbished Usher Hall.

“Women’s voices and experiences are central to this retelling of the (Nativity) story unusually seen from a mother’s perspective,” the program notes.

El Nino is also the name given to changes in the Pacific ocean current off the Peruvian coast which can have a devastating impact on climates around the world.

Other highlights include a production by France’s Opera de Lyon of George Gershwin’s opera of the American deep south Porgy and Bess; Gospel, rock ‘n’ roll and soul combined in the U.S. musical The Gospel at Colonus.

The world premiere of Scottish writer and satirist Alistair Beaton’s Caledonia, about the disastrous 1698 Scottish attempt to colonize the Darien peninsula in what is now Panama will make its appearance as will the exuberant flamboyance of Brazil’s Grupo Corpo dance group.

Another world premiere comes from Spain’s Paco Pena Flamenco Dance Company with Quimeras (Chimeras).

Orchestras include the Cleveland Orchestra from the United States under Franz Welser-Moest, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw conducted by Mariss Jansons, the Sydney Symphony with conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy, the Russian National Orchestra under Mikhail Pletnev and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra with Gunther Schuller.

The EIF was founded in 1947 as an antidote to the dark austerity of the period following World War Two. It has joined with the multi-layered Fringe Festival and the International Book and Jazz festivals to provide the world’s largest annual showplace of the arts.

Mills told Reuters this year’s festival was the latest in a sequence of themes he had mapped out as he took command in Edinburgh four years ago.

His first year in 2007 was very European, focusing on the origin of the opera, that most European of art forms. In 2008, the theme was on the politics and art of a new and reinvented Europe and its eastern fringe. Last year the focus was on Scotland’s role in the Enlightenment.

Asked whether Asia — with close Scottish associations to China and Japan — was in his sights, Mills — who has at least two more years as director — responded: “You could assume that with a fair degree of accuracy, not that I’ll tell you when!”

He said that despite the challenging economic environment, last year had been a good year financially, adding: “We are living within our means.”

The key to funding, he said, was not just to go cap in hand seeking money, but to persuade donors of the overall value of the Festival “in the broadest possible way.”

Editing by Paul Casciato

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