VIOLINIST Nicola Benedetti is the first act to sell out a show at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, organisers revealed as they reported record sales for the event.
An appearance by The Killing star Sofie Grabol in a Scottish historical drama, a South African dance spectacular featuring hit choir Ladysmith Black Mambazo and a visit from one of Russia’s leading opera companies are among the hottest tickets at the box office.
A performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem and a new adaptation of Owen Wingrave, his famous opera for television about a pacifist solider born into a long line of military heroes, are also among the most popular shows. A concert by the Tallis Scholars at Greyfriars Kirk saw the vocal ensemble become the second act to sell out after Benedetti.
Organisers told Scotland on Sunday that £320,000 was taken at the box office yesterday alone – the best box-office return for the opening day of public sales ever. Almost £1 million in total has been notched up since sales opened to “festival friends” on 19 March, the day after the programme was launched.
Three-quarters of tickets sold yesterday were booked online, though hundreds of ticket-buyers queued up outside The Hub box office on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile from early morning to secure seats.
Festival marketing director Jackie Westbrook said: “It is fantastic to be selling tickets after all the months of planning and preparation. We’ve enjoyed meeting such enthusiastic and passionate customers today, welcoming old friends and seeing plenty of new faces.”
Centuries of global conflict, warfare and unrest have inspired the majority of the critically acclaimed programme for this year’s festival, the last to be overseen by Australian impresario Sir Jonathan Mills, who is leaving the role in September after his eighth festival as director.
Not only will the event coincide with commemorations to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, but it will – according to Sir Jonathan – take the event “full circle” back to its 1947 roots when it was instigated to “provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit” in the wake of the Second World War.
Scottish star Benedetti, currently in India with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra on their first tour of the country, will be performing in two shows at the festival.
The Ayrshire-born musician has now sold out an intimate performance at the 800-capacity Queen’s Hall, where she will be appearing with a host of her regular collaborators for a performance which will include a Shostakovich piano quintet written in the Soviet Union during the Second World War.
Tickets are also selling fast for her headline appearance with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra at the Usher Hall, performing a violin concerto written by composer Erich Korngold after he fled to Hollywood from Nazi-occupied Austria. He went on to win the Academy Award for his work on 1938’s The Adventures Of Robin Hood.
Actress Grabol, who plays the lead role of detective Sarah Lund in Scandinavian thriller The Killing, will be starring as fellow Dane, Queen Margaret, the wife of James III, in the historical royal saga The James Plays at the festival this year.
She will be appearing in the third instalment of playwright Rona Munro’s eagerly awaited new trilogy of plays about the Stewart kings who ruled over an independent Scotland in the fifth century.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the choir hailed as “South Africa’s cultural ambassadors” by the late Nelson Mandela, will join forces with dancers from the Royal Ballet and Rambert companies for a one-off collaboration to mark both 20 years of democracy and Glasgow’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games.