Theatre, music and dance highlights from the 2011 Edinburgh International Festival

This article is from 2011

Theatre, music and dance highlights from the 2011 Edinburgh International Festival

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Semiramide and King Lear among picks

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
The Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) has been a benchmark for quality and innovation in the performing arts since its inauguration nearly 65 years ago. This year artistic director Jonathan Mills builds his programme around the multi-faceted cultures of the Far East, with opera, dance, theatre and classical music from China, India, Japan, Indonesia, Korea and Vietnam. A particular highlight of the theatre programme is Stephen Earnhart and Greg Pierce's adaptation of Haruki Murakami's bestseller, which follows an unassuming everyman on a quest that traverses the boundaries between reality and dreams.
King's Theatre, Leven Street, 0131 473 2000, 20–24 Aug, 7.30pm; 21 Aug, 2.30pm, £10–£30.

The Revenge of Prince Zi Dan
Those who show up to performances in the Festival's opera programme know what to expect. Ever since Monteverdi, the template for operatic performance in the west has been pretty much set. In the east, however, the marriage of music, theatre and dance has taken its own course. Audiences will require a healthy dose of readjustment to appreciate the Shanghai Peking Opera Troupe and this Chinese translation of Shakespeare's Hamlet relocated from Denmark to the fictional Realm of the Red City, complete with acrobatics and martial arts.
Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, 19 & 20 Aug, 8pm; 21 Aug, 3pm, Edinburgh, £10–£35.

The Peony Pavilion
Tang Xianzu died in the same year as Shakespeare, but whereas the latter's Romeo and Juliet ends with the death of the young lovers, Xianzu's The Peony Pavilion is about the eternal love that happens after death. The National Ballet of China, complete with its own orchestra, re-enacts the romance in lavish style.
Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, 13–15 Aug, 7.30pm, £12–£44.

Rossini's great opera – over four hours of it – is staged in spectacular style by Vlaamse Opera. British director and designer Nigel Lowery evokes Baghdad during the fall of Saddam Hussein as he tells the story of Queen Semiramide's tyrannous rule over Babylon, incestuous lover and all. Alberto Zedda conducts.
Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, 25 & 27 Aug, 6pm, £16–£68.

Ravi Shankar
The Indian sitar player was already a major figure when he was championed by George Harrison and The Beatles in the mid-1960s and he remains, to quote Harrison, the 'Godfather of world music'. Here he is in meditative mode, performing the evening ragas associated with traditional ceremonies.
Usher Hall, Lothian Road, 22 Aug, 8pm, £12–£34.

Continental Shifts
The east-west theme of the EIF provides plenty to talk about, hence this series of a dozen discussions programmed in association with the British Council. Considering politics, religion and philosophy as much as art, they are designed to provoke debate about a rapidly changing world as the old centres of power and wealth move east.
The Hub, Castlehill, 13 Aug–2 Sep (selected days), 2.30pm, £6.

King Lear
Taiwanese performer Wu Hsing-kuo takes Shakespeare's great tragedy about an old king who loses his family and his sanity and uses it as a jumping-off point for a meditation on his own life as an actor. Doing the whole thing single-handedly, he removes his wig, beard and costume to ask existential questions of himself.
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Grindlay Street, 13–16 Aug, 8pm, £10–£30.

Princess Bari
Drawing on the traditional Korean music known as pansori, this colourful piece of dance theatre tells the archetypal tale of a baby cast into the sea by her father only to be rescued and to grow up into the one woman who can save him. Choreographer Eun-Me Ahn was also responsible for the opening ceremony of the football world cup in South Korea.
Edinburgh Playhouse, Greenside Place, 19–21 Aug, 7.30pm, £10–£30.

The Revenge of Prince Zi Dan - Shanghai Peking Opera Troupe - Edinburgh International Festival 2011

Ravi Shankar - Gat Kirwani

King Lear - Edinburgh International Festival 2011

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Edinburgh International Festival 2011

The Peony Pavilion - National Ballet of China - Edinburgh International Festival 2011

Princess Bari - Edinburgh International Festival

The Peony Pavilion

The National Ballet of China and the National Ballet of China Symphony Orchestra present a marriage of traditional Chinese instrumentation and dance with western classical ballet in this lavish and romantic piece about a girl who falls asleep and dreams of a lover she has never met. The score, too, crosses continents as…

Princess Bari

A Korean tale with elements familiar from Western fairy lore, this piece of opulent dance theatre from Eun-Me Ahn Company tells the tale of a princess, cast out as a baby by her father who longs for a son, who returns as a blossoming 16-year-old to find her father sick. As the only one who can save him, she must venture…

King Lear

  • 3 stars

A one-man version of Shakespeare's tragedy of power, deceit and biting loneliness, written, directed and performed by Wu Hsing-Kuo with an array of richly detailed costumes, live music, song, martial arts, contemporary dance and sheer stagecraft. Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

Continental Shifts: Why China Isn't the New West

Leading authority on Chinese history, Professor Jonathan Spence explores the relationship between China and the west. Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

  • 4 stars

World premiere of a new production written and directed by Stephen Earnhart, adapted from Haruki Murakami's novel of the same name that deals with an everyman character who loses first his cat and then his wife, the ensuing search leading him across the threshhold of his dreams and into a world where the dark forces…

Continental Shifts: All The World's A Stage

A discussion on Shakespeare's enduring legacy with Korean theatre director Tae-Suk Oh, Micheal Billington and Professor Alexander CY Huang. Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

Continental Shifts: Transmission

Eun-Me Ahn (choreographer of this year's EIF event Princess Bari) author Anita Nair and writer Jonathan Clements look at the popular culture of India, Japan, China and Korea. Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

Continental Shifts: Global Philosophies

A look at the changing face of religion in eastern and western philosophies with Christopher Brookmyre, Tu Weiming and Dr Richard Holloway. Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

Continental Shifts: How Chinese Money Is Changing the World

Keynote lecture from James Kynge on the global impact of China's new economic power. Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

Continental Shifts: India

Writer, journalist and current member of the Indian Parliament Dr Tharoor discusses India's changing position in the modern world. Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

Continental Shifts: A Changing India

A discussion on India's changing status and emergence as a world power with Tarun J Tejpal and Shoma Chaudhury. Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

Continental Shifts: Song of the Earth

Dr Kirsteen McCue, Yang Lian and Ashley Page discuss Song of the Earth performed at this year's EIF by Scottish Ballet. Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

The Revenge of Prince Zi Dan

A Chinese interpretation of Hamlet from the Shanghai Peking Opera Troupe. The traditional Chinese orchestra and percussion ensemble accompany the troupe in their showcase of the distinctive Peking Opera (or Jingju) art form, which combines dance, singing, mime and martial arts. Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

Continental Shifts: Contemporary Chinese Thought

Professor Wang Hui looks at how China is balancing traditional cultural values and the global market. Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

Continental Shifts: Divided

A look at the effects of partition with Tim Supple (director of this year's One Thousand and One Nights), Dr Michael Shinn and Dr Rachel Dwyer. Part of Edinburgh International Festival.


The Vlaamse Opera of Antwerp and Ghent in Belgium presents this lesser-known work of Gioachino Rossini, an epic melodrama about a Babylonian queen who murders her husband and seizes power, only to fall, unknowingly, in love with a son she thought was dead. Combining elements of Greek and Shakespearean tragedy with a truly…

Continental Shifts: Heirlooms

A talk concerning the history and tradition of the Asian textile that will be exhibited at the Dovecot Studios, with Ban Divall, Jonathan Hopwe and Shakti Maira. Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

Continental Shifts: Ritual & Memory

A discussion of lost and living traditions in Vietnam, India and south east Asia with Ea Sola, Swati Cjhopra and Dr Rita Langer. Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

Ravi Shankar

  • 4 stars

Now aged 91, Ravi Shankar has led a unique career as the man responsible for almost single-handedly popularising Indian sitar music among new audiences around the world. A meditative musical form, the sound of the raga is tranquil, and this programme of 'Evening Ragas' has a fitting serenity for a performer in the evening…