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Edinburgh International Festival Heads East in 2011
By: Ian MacKenzie
EDINBURGH (REUTERS).- The Edinburgh International Festival EIF focuses on the Orient in 2011, as Festival Director Jonathan Mills brings a heady mix of acts to the world's largest annual artistic extravaganza from the Far East ranging through China and Japan, Vietnam and India.

The program theme for the three-week festival, running from next August 12 to September 4, is normally announced in March. But Mills took the opportunity of a visit to Beijing to release some of the details Monday, five months early.

"For centuries the mysterious and alluring civilizations to the East have inspired and fascinated artists from the West," the Festival said in a statement.

"Festival 2011 juxtaposes traditional Asian art with the Orientalism it continues to inspire throughout Europe and the West, offering unique opportunities to discover more about the societies that are redefining the modern world every day."

The acts include the National Ballet of China, with the classical love story "Peony Pavilion," the Shanghai Peking Opera Troupe with an adaptation of Shakespeare's "Hamlet," and the first visit from South Korea of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Myung-Whun Chung.

The acclaimed Vietnamese choreographer Ea Sola will meditate on the human cost of war with a re-creation of "Drought and Rain." The rest of the program will be revealed next March.

Australian-born Mills has spread his wings around the world since taking over as director of the EIF in 2007. He focused on the origins of opera, that most European of arts forms, in his initial year in charge.

In 2008, the theme was on the politics and art of a new and reinvented Europe and its eastern fringe, while Mills focused on Scotland's role in the Enlightenment the following year.

The 2010 festival took audiences across the Atlantic to the flamboyant and exciting cultures of the Americas and Australasia. Given Scotland's historical ties with China, Japan and India, the look eastwards is a natural progression.

The EIF was born in 1947 as an artistic beacon in the post-World War Two days of austerity. It now combines with the sprawling Fringe, Book and Jazz festivals in an artistic showcase that attracts hundreds of thousands of people to the Scottish capital annually.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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