Director picks festival highlights

Image caption, Jonathan Mills said he was excited by the programme

Edinburgh International Festival director Jonathan Mills said he is "excited" by his fourth Edinburgh programme.

The opening night concert is a reinterpretation of the nativity told from a mother's perspective.

It is set on the US/Mexico border.

The overall theme for the festival is "New Worlds", concentrating on work from America and Australasia.

Mr Mills said the opening work by US composer John Adams would set the tone for the rest of the three-week programme.

World premieres will include Caledonia by Scottish writer Alistair Beaton.

It explores Scotland's attempt to turn itself into a colonial power by setting up a colony in Panama in the 1690s.

The disastrous scheme to found a colony at Darien left Scotland considerably poorer and cost 2,000 lives.

It is believed to have led to the 1707 Treaty of Union with England.

Mr Mills said: "It is a very Scottish story set in the midst of the greed and euphoria of the late 17th century.

"It has interesting parallels to our own times."

Theatrical tour-de-force

Elsewhere in the programme there is a staging of the opera Montezuma about the fall of the Aztec empire, which the festival director said had "turned out to be fantastic".

Mr Mills said he could not wait to see a new version of Ernest Hemingway's novel The Sun Also Rises, by the avant-garde American theatre company Elevator Repair Service.

He also highlighted dance show Agua, which was choreographed by "Europe's most-beloved" choreographer Pina Bausch, who died last year.

Mr Mills said the show, which imagines a journey from Brazilian beach to rainforest and then back again, is "humorous, witty yet virtuosic".

Gospel music group The Blind Boys of Alabama are to make their festival debut in Gospel at Colonus, which Mr Mills described as a "mighty theatrical tour-de-force".

Also in the programme is American composer George Gershwin's Depression era opera Porgy and Bess, which has been updated in a multi-media production which will include a hip-hop and contemporary dance company.

Peter Carey's 1981 novel Bliss will be the inspiration for a new Australian opera to be performed for the first time in Europe, by Opera Australia.

Hidden gems include Teatro Cinema from Chile which combines film projection and live performance.

Mr Mills said: "It is theatre for a generation dedicated to the moving image. But it is absolutely a theatrical experience."

The Edinburgh International Festival runs from 13 August to 5 September.