March 23, 2011 / 5:51 PM / 8 years ago

Oriental Shakespeare, Ravi Shankar at Edinburgh festival

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Indian musician Ravi Shankar and Asian versions of Shakespeare are among highlights of this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, as EIF director Jonathan Mills completes a five-year artistic tour of the world.

Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar performs in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata February 7, 2009. REUTERS/Jayanta Shaw

The EIF, running from August 12 to September 4, combines with the Fringe and the city’s International Book Festival and military tattoo to offer the world’s biggest annual extravaganza of the arts.

Mills unveiled the EIF program on Wednesday in what he called “an attempt to make very mainstream the ideas of Asian culture and the ideas of Asia’s influence on Europe and Europe’s influence on Asia — it’s a very, very important bridge we build and forge.”

Over the past five years, he has ranged from the origins of opera to the eastern fringes of Europe, the Americas, the Pacific and Australasia in his global artistic voyage.

This year’s productions provide a rich and colorful mix from Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, India and the Middle East. colorful Legendary 90-year-old sitar player Ravi Shankar, dubbed by Beatle George Harrison as “the Godfather of world music,” is back after more than 20 years with a programme of evening ragas. Music also includes a series of international orchestras.

The Arab tale of “One Thousand and One Nights,” dramatized and directed by Tim Supple with stories adapted by acclaimed Lebanese novelist Hanan al-Shaykh, is in rehearsal in Morocco and premieres in Toronto before heading for Edinburgh.

Edinburgh will see the world premiere of “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,” a play in Japanese adapted from Haruki Murakami’s novel on a disintegrating marriage and revelation of long-buried World War Two secrets.

South Korea’s Mokhwa Repertory Company transports Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” to 5th century Korea with Taoist magic and royal banishment, while Taiwanese actor Wu Hsing-kuo writes, directs and performs in his version of “King Lear.”

The Shanghai Peking Opera Troupe presents “The Revenge of Prince Zi Da” in what the EIF promises will be an adaptation of “Hamlet” “unlike any you will have experienced.”

In dance, New York-based choreographer Shen Wei brings “Re-Triptych” to the stage with ancient and modern takes on Tibet, Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and the frenetic pace of 21st century China.

The Mariinsky Opera of St Petersburg will put on a production of Richard Strauss’s “Woman Without a Shadow,” while Scottish Ballet premieres a work by Jorma Elo, resident choreographer of the Boston Ballet.

The EIF kicks off on August 12 with Robert Schumann’s oratorio “Paradise and the Peri” based on Persian mythology, with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Festival Chorus.

Despite economic recession, Mills said the EIF’s finances were “strong and robust — We’re about to find out how they are in terms of ticket sales.” Edinburgh doubles in size with about half a million visitors during the festival period.

The International Festival and the Fringe were founded in 1947 as an antidote to the austerity post-World War Two.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White

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