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East meets West in Edinburgh

Korean artists to take center stage at annual culture festival


It is an annual festival in Edinburgh that draws hundreds of thousands of people for three weeks of music, dance, theater and opera in August.

This year the world’s biggest cultural fest will seek to build a bridge between Asia and Europe by featuring artists from Korea, China and Japan, according to the organizer.

The staging of the Korean version of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” choreographer Ahn Eun-me’s “Princess Bari,” and maestro Chung Myung-whun’s Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra will be among the highlights of this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, which runs from Aug. 12 until Sept. 4 in the Scottish capital. 
The Tempest (Mokwha Repertory Company)
The Tempest (Mokwha Repertory Company)
Princess Bari (Ahn Eun-Me Company)
Princess Bari (Ahn Eun-Me Company)

Several Korean artists have performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which started as an alternative to the International Festival. But it is the first time for Korean artists to be officially invited to the main festival.

“The festival focuses on the cultures of Asia for the first time in its history, building a bridge between Europe and Asia,” Jonathan Mills, the festival’s director said in a statement.

“I have been inspired by artistic links between Korea and Europe that span back across centuries, and by the desire to build new connections between our cultures and people.”

One production house to bring together East and West will be the Mokwha Repertory Company, from Seoul. Inspired by a story from the Korean Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, director Oh Tae-suk transports William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” to 5th-century Korea, infusing the story with elements of traditional Korean culture and music.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday at the British Council office in Seoul, the Korean play master said: “We performed our own Romeo and Juliet in London before, and received great responses from the audience.
Korean participants of the 2011 Edinburgh International Festival during a news conference at the British Council office, in Seoul on Wednesday. From left: Jackie Westbrook, marketing director of the Edinburgh International Festival, director Oh Tae-suk of the Mokhwa Repertory Company, choreographer Ahn Eun-me and Kim Joo-ho, CEO of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestras. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
Korean participants of the 2011 Edinburgh International Festival during a news conference at the British Council office, in Seoul on Wednesday. From left: Jackie Westbrook, marketing director of the Edinburgh International Festival, director Oh Tae-suk of the Mokhwa Repertory Company, choreographer Ahn Eun-me and Kim Joo-ho, CEO of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestras. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

“I think Shakespeare is a great bridge to convey our culture to the West. I’m really looking forward to bringing our latest work to Edinburgh,” he added.

Contemporary choreographer Ahn will fuse traditional Korean arts, including pansori, or Korean traditional narrative music, to tell the folk tale of Princess Bari.

“We’ve recruited and trained young artists to deliver more powerful and beautiful pansori. I think people, especially those who have never experienced Korean arts, will be surprised to see our stage,” she added.

Maestro Chung will also bring the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra for the first time to the festival. Their program includes Korean composer Chin Un-suk’s “Su,” which illustrates the versatility of the sheng, the 17-pipe traditional Chinese instrument.

Also, Korean soprano Inn Sun-hae will take the role of Eurilla for Haydn’s opera Orlando Paladino, and Suh Ye-ree will join the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra for Mahler’s Symphony No. 4.

Other shows at the 2011 Edinburgh festival include a ballet adaptation of “The Peony Pavilion,” a love story by Chinese playwright Tang Xianzu, performed by the National Ballet of China, and as well as Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” by Shanghai Opera Company.

In another adaptation of Shakespeare, Taiwan’s Contemporary Legend Theater retells “King Lear.”

“Edinburgh festival is one of the world’s biggest cultural events. We have an annual budget of 9.5 million pounds ($15.5 million). Each year more than 350,000 people come to visit our festival,” said Jackie Westbrook, marketing and communications director of the organizer.

Edinburgh International Festival, founded in 1947, is arguably the highest profile cultural showcase in the world. Curated entirely by Australian director Jonathan Mills since he took the post in 2006, artists can participate in the festival only by his invitation.

“He (Jonathan Mills) has been to Korea on many occasions, and has strong relations with Korean artists. I believe that more Korean artists will continue to be invited to our festival,” the marketing director added.

Tickets for this year’s Edinburgh International Festival have gone on sale. To book tickets, visit the website www.eif.co.uk, or call +44 (0) 131 473-2000.

By Oh Kyu-wook (596story@heraldcorp.com)

INFORMATION

The Tempest
Mokwha Repertory Company
Aug. 13 – Aug. 16, 7.30 p.m.,
King’s Theatre.

Princess Bari
Ahn Eun-Me Company
Aug. 19 – Aug. 21, 7.30 p.m.,
The Edinburgh Playhouse.

Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra
Chung Myung-Whun, Conductor
Aug. 24, 7.30 p.m., Usher Hall.
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