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Edinburgh Festival embraces world in Olympic year

By Ian MacKenzie

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - The Edinburgh International Festival (EIF), taking advantage of the London Olympic Games, has spread its wings around the world this year to bring nearly 3,000 artists from 47 nations to the Scottish capital in August and attract a global audience.

The EIF combines with festivals of jazz, literature and the massive Fringe in the world's biggest annual arts extravaganza which bring some 250 million pounds to the Scottish economy.

EIF Director Jonathan Mills on Wednesday announced the program for this year's festival, which runs from August 9 to September 2, saying that in an Olympic year he had sought to make it as broad as possible.

Participants in this year's celebration of music, opera, theatre and dance include artists from Russia to the Americas, India to Australia, Japan to Africa and through Europe.

Edinburgh will also host a two-day international meeting of culture ministers on August 12 and 13 to discuss "the power and profile of culture in forging and fostering international relations".

Australian-born Mills noted that since taking control of the EIF six years ago he had highlighted different geographical areas: Asia last year, for example, and the Americas and Pacific in 2010.

"What we're doing this year is not actually in one place, it's in many places...47 different nations from all over the world, because I thought in an Olympic year it was not appropriate to be in one isolated, or in one exclusive geographical area," he told Reuters.

The festival opens on August 9 with a gala performance of the powerful choral piece "A Mass of Life", by English composer Frederick Delius.

Three productions too large for conventional theatres will be staged at a new site at the Royal Highland Centre on Edinburgh's western outskirts. These are a Polish version of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" as a military leader in the Middle East, the Swiss Theater Basel's take on "My Fair Lady" in a language laboratory, and the French Theatre de Soleil's "Les Naufrages de Fol Espoir" (The Castaways of the Fol Espoir).

There is a strong musical element including orchestras from the UK, the United States, France, Australia, Hungary and Romania. Musicians of the imperial household in Tokyo will provide a rare insight into the imperial court music and dance of Japan.

Russia's Mariinsky Ballet will present a production of Sergei Prokofiev's ballet "Cinderella".

Through the festival Arthur's Seat and the heights overlooking Edinburgh will be the focus of a unique display of public art and sporting endeavor inspired by the Olympics. Hundreds of walkers and runners wearing special light suits will illuminate the dark mountainside in a Speed of Light display.

The Edinburgh International Festival has been held annually since 1947, when it was created as a cultural antidote to the austere days following World War Two.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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