Edinburgh International festival builds bridge east

king lear
Image caption A one-man version of King Lear from Taiwan's Wu Hsing-Kuo is described as a "tour de force"

Theatre, dance and music from the Far East will be on show in the east of Scotland as the Edinburgh International Festival begins later.

Festival director Jonathan Mills said he was trying to build an "exquisite bridge" between the cultures of Asia and the cultures of Europe.

Mr Mills said: "The cultures of Asia should be every bit as important to us as the economies are."

He said it was important to understand the attitudes and philosophies of Asia.

The international festival differs from the Edinburgh Fringe, which began last week, in that all the companies are selected and invited by the director.

Now in its 65th year, the international festival presents a rich programme of classical music, theatre, opera and dance in six major theatres and concert halls and a number of smaller venues.

The Usher Hall will host the festival's opening concert, Schumann's Das Paradies und die Peri, the story of a fallen angel's salvation.

The opening weekend includes large-scale productions such as the National Ballet of China's The Peony Pavilion and Mokwha Repertory Company's version of Shakespeare's Tempest. There is also a one-man King Lear at the Lyceum and Philip Glass's debut at the Playhouse.

Mr Mills told BBC Scotland: "We have set a very big challenge to audiences but it is one they are responding to magnificently, with excitement.

"Because I think people recognise that this year's festival is a theme for our times.

"It is a real, important, relevant part of the lives that we will all be leading in the next 20 to 30 years.

"Our future is not only in our own communities but it is also inextricably linked with communities across the Asian region."

Among the highlights of the festival's three-week run is The Peony Pavilion, based on a love story by one of China's greatest writers Tang Hsien-tsu, who died in the same year as William Shakespeare.

Mr Mills said there was no-one from Europe who had a more enduring influence on the East than Shakespeare.

The festival programme also features a Chinese version of Hamlet, a Korean take on The Tempest and a Taiwanese production of King Lear.

The Revenge of Prince Zi Dan is a Chinese translation of Hamlet but Mr Mills said it was in the style of the martial arts films of Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan, both of whom studied traditional Peking opera.

Image caption The Revenge of Prince Zi Dan is a Chinese translation of Hamlet

The Tempest, re-imagined by Mokwha Repertory Company from Seoul, weaves Shakespeare's famous tale with fifth-Century Korean chronicles.

Wu Hsing-Kuo's King Lear is a one-man show, which Mr Mills described as a "tour de force".

The festival director also highlighted Drought and Rain from the Vietnamese choreographer Ea Sola.

It includes a group of women, now in their 70s, who sang to soldiers during the Vietnam war.

Shen Wei, who was the choreographic adviser to the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic games, brings his Re-Triptych to the festival.

Tibet, Angkor Wat and China's Silk Road are the inspiration for his dance trilogy.

One Thousand and One Nights, by British director Tim Supple, is told in two parts, each three hours long.

Actors and musicians from Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria perform the famous tales weaved by Shahrazad.

Another highlight is Stephen Earnhart's adaptation of Haruki Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, which uses video and puppetry to bring to life the Japanese novelist's work.