THE EDINBURGH International Festival (EIF) is putting dozens of shows on sale almost two months early – stepping up competition with the Fringe.
The full classical music programme will be announced at the beginning of February for the first time, under a shake-up overseen by Fergus Linehan.
And the Irishman, who took over the event two months ago from Australian Sir Jonathan Mills, indicated that tickets may go on sale before Christmas in future years, even though the full festival programme is not announced until March.
Mr Linehan has already raised eyebrows by bringing the dates of the EIF forward by a week from next summer – back into line with the Fringe for the first time in 18 years.
The surprise move to release thousands of EIF concert tickets mirrors what has happened with Fringe shows in recent years, with hundreds going on sale as early as January, even though the official programme does not launch until early June.
However, Mr Linehan insisted the EIF’s move was intended to help it compete better with rival festivals around the world, which traditionally release tickets for sale much earlier than Edinburgh, and attract new international visitors to the city.
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Oscar-winner Juliette Binoche’s appearance in Greek tragedy Antigone was announced by Mr Linehan in May, when he also revealed the dates shift.
Mr Linehan said the full concert and recital programmes at the Queen’s Hall, Usher Hall and an unconfirmed venue would go on sale in February, although other non-classical concerts will not be announced until the full programme launch in March.
He has previously revealed the festival – world-renowned for its classical concerts – would embrace folk, jazz and electronica in future, with new, more intimate venues likely to be deployed for the first time.
Mr Linehan told The Scotsman: “This has really come about because we realised in September that we had actually finalised the schedule for these concerts and recitals. Theatre, dance and everything else is very different, they are a more mercurial bunch, but classical music has a very early planning trajectory.
“We were sitting there wondering whether people would prefer to have this information when we have it or would they prefer us to sit on it for five months? In classical music terms, we are very late in announcing our concerts in March, but that’s because we’re waiting for the full programme.
“We also have to consider that other big festivals, like Lucerne and Salzburg, already have their programmes out. We’re competing with the big concert halls around Europe, who will have their entire 2015 programme out in the market and in a sense get the jump on us.
“We thought we’d do a gentle version of this and see whether it’s something people find valuable or disruptive in some way, but I’d actually prefer if we were doing this before Christmas.”
Mr Linehan said the festival would relax usual ticketing rules so anyone who buys a ticket for a classical concert in February can transfer their booking if they find a schedule clash when the final programme comes out.
Tickets for Antigone go on sale on 29 November. The full concert and recital programme is announced on 4 February, and the full EIF line-up is expected to be unveiled on 18 March. Full public sales begin on 28 March.
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