The Galway International Arts Festival will showcase highly acclaimed productions from home and abroad as it celebrates its 41st anniversary this year.

Over the next two weeks, the festival will feature more than 500 artists and performers in theatre, dance, visual arts, music, literature and comedy.

The festival’s artistic director, Paul Fahy, said this was the most ambitious programme to date, featuring large scale, innovative productions from America, Asia, Australia and Europe.

One of the big theatre attractions this year is a student production from South Africa called 'The Fall', a critically acclaimed play from the Baxter Theatre Centre.

As the statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes came down at the University of Cape Town in 2015, seven students documented the protest in a powerful stage production of song and dance.

The play has captivated audiences and critics around the world, tackling the issues of race, class, gender and power.

Another centre stage production at this year's festival is the world premiere of Incantata by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Paul Muldoon.

He wrote it in memory of his former partner Mary Farl Powers.

The China National Traditional Orchestra will make its Irish debut at the festival and opera fans can look forward to the Irish National Opera’s new production of Orfeo ed Euridice, which will premiere at the festival.

Other highlights at this year's festival include the Australian circus company, Backbone by Gravity and Other Myths.

Meanwhile, the First Thought Talks keynote address by President Michael D Higgins will take place at NUI Galway.

Tonight's RTÉ Six One News will be broadcast live from Galway to mark the opening of the festival.