Virtuoso violinist among big names in 2012 programme

SHE’S the violin virtuoso who’s taken her talents around the world.

But when she plays in the Capital this summer, it will be to make her bow at the Edinburgh Festival.

Scots star Nicola Benedetti will take to the stage at the Usher Hall, stringing the London Symphony Orchestra along for company.

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She’s part of what’s been described as a “majestic year” for the Festival, which launched its 2012 programme today.

Among the more striking events include a guerilla dance troupe and the re-opening of the King’s Theatre after its overhaul.

The guerilla dancing – a flashmob-style performance – comes from the New York company Juillard Dance, which will perform at the Playhouse.

Opera fans, meanwhile, will be the first to experience the newly refurbished King’s when it stages four new works from Scottish Opera, including the world premiere of The Lady From the Sea, by Craig Armstrong, based on Henrik Ibsen’s play of the same name.

The Festival’s director Jonathan Mills said: “In a truly majestic year of celebration for the UK the Edinburgh International Festival has designed a large and life-affirming programme of opera, music, dance and theatre performed by magnificent artists from across the globe.”

A total of 3000 performers from 47 countries will give 185 performances of 117 productions to make this year’s Festival the biggest in recent times.

The most ambitious productions will take place at Ingliston’s Royal Highland Centre, which will be transformed into a “theatre warehouse” hosting three productions, including a Polish Macbeth and a German take on My Fair Lady.

“I look forward to audiences discovering a magical world at the Royal Highland Centre,” said Mr Mills.

Other highlights at the revamped King’s include the return of director Silviu Purcarete, who, after his acclaimed interpretation of Faust in 2009, will lead a new production of Gulliver’s Travels in Romanian.

Mr Mills said: “We are very much looking forward to returning to one of Edinburgh’s most wonderful and charismatic theatres.

“Audiences will enjoy an enhanced experience with new seating and improved ventilation.”

Among the hot tickets for dance fans will be the Mariinsky Ballet’s version of Cinderella, choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, at the Festival Theatre, while Gaguka, an evening of Japanese Imperial Court music and dance, comes to the Festival Theatre for one night.

Fringe favourite Camille O’Sullivan is also set to draw crowds to the Royal Lyceum Theatre, while the Festival will once again draw to close under the annual Fireworks Concert in Princes Street Gardens.

Mr Mills added: “In hard times as well as good the Festival remains one of the world’s most important examples of the power of culture and the arts to transform individual ambitions and lives.”

The 2012 EIF runs from August 9 to September 2, tickets go on sale on March 24.

Brave new world

FIRST Minister Alex Salmond has said that the European premiere of a new Disney-Pixar film to be held in Edinburgh this summer was of “inestimable value” to the city.

He revealed that the animated movie Brave would close this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival in a glittering gala event on June 30.

Mr Salmond said the multi-million-pound movie would help rejuvenate the ailing film festival, which last year was branded a flop.

Stars including Kelly Macdonald and Billy Connolly are expected to attend the premiere at the Festival Theatre.