The 65th Edinburgh International Festival (EIF), which is themed around a celebration of Asian culture, launches today in the Scottish capital (12 August 2011).

The Festival - parent to the much larger and more chaotic Edinburgh Fringe, which opened last Saturday - runs until 4 September with its mix of opera, ballet, music and theatre from around the globe.

This year's highlights include the National Ballet of China’s The Peony Pavilion (Festival Theatre, 13-15 August), Mokwha Repertory Company’s version of Shakespeare’s Tempest (King's Theatre, 13-16 August) and a one-man performance of King Lear written, directed and performed by Wu Hsing-Kuo (Royal Lyceum, 13-16 August).

EIF will also stage the world premiere of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (King's Theatre, 20-24 August), adapted by Stephen Earnhart and Greg Pierce from the novel by Haruki Murakami.

Moving away from the Far East, Tim Supple's One Thousand and One Nights, a six-hour exploration of the "never-ending stories" of Lebanese novelist Hanan Al-Shaykh, will make its European premiere at the festival. It opens on 21 August at the Royal Lyceum Theatre (running until 3 September) following outings at the Luminato festival in Toronto in June and Chicago Shakespeare Theater in June and July.

Elsewhere in the programme, winners of the 2010 EIF prize at the Edinburgh Fringe, cabaret artist Meow Meow and director Cora Bissett, will give work-in-progress presentations on 17 and 18 August and 25 and 26 August respectively at The Hub.

The recent death of Lord Harewood (EIF director 1961-1965) will be marked and his life honoured in a performance of Thaïs, his favourite opera, on 18 August starring the Festival Chorus which he helped found, led by Sir Andrew Davis and with Erin Wall in the title role.

Alongside the performances, there are a range of talks, exhibitions and film screenings taking place over the course of the festival. Also, this year the EIF is providing £8 day tickets to those “lucky enough to be 26 or under”, in addition to the existing 50% discount for people under 18, students in full time education, senior citizens, unemployed people, Young Scot, Equity and MU card holders and people with a disability.

Festival director Jonathan Mills said: “This is the most exciting moment of each year for me, as we breathe life into all the ideas and plans made over months and years … We are ready to help show off the very best of Scotland and this capital city to its visitors and welcome them warmly. There is so much going on on stage and so much happening around that off stage, it is going to be an exciting three weeks.”

For all the latest updates from both the EIF and Fringe, including news, reviews, interviews and blogs, visit Whatsonstage.com/Edinburgh.