Page last updated at 21:33 GMT, Thursday, 7 August 2008 22:33 UK

Sales up at Edinburgh's festival

Festival Director, Jonathan Mills, helps out on the set of Scottish Opera"s world premiere production of The Two Widows at the Festival Theatre Edinburgh
Festival director Jonathan Mills helps out on the set of The Two Widows

The Edinburgh International Festival is to open with a record 2m worth of tickets sold in advance.

Online sales for the three-week festival featuring drama, opera, music, and dance are up 17% on last year.

Organisers have had a race against time to reopen their flagship venue, the Usher Hall, which is in the midst of a multi million-pound redevelopment.

The work is not due for completion until next spring but the venue will be open for the duration of the festival.

All those involved in getting it ready in time for Friday's opening concert - from carpenters and plasterers to electricians, painters and cleaners - have been invited to concerts over the next three weeks as a thank you.

Festival director Jonathan Mills said: "The Usher Hall is in some ways our most important venue, so I really did not want to imagine a festival without it.

Borders have been redrawn in every direction and these borders are not just political, or geographic, but also cultural, social and even religious
Jonathan Mills
Festival director

"It is a great relief and a great sense of excitement that the Usher Hall is up and running for yet another year of fantastic music-making."

The opening concert - The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht - brings together the RSNO, the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, the ladies of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and eight soloists.

Actress Hannah Gordon is the narrator of the piece.

She said: "I just love working with musicians and singers and I've done nothing on this scale.

"I've done Peter and the Wolf a couple of times. I've done the Snowman and I just think the words and the music and the singing together is a wonderful combination."


Rehearsals in Edinburgh's Usher Hall

The opening concert is already sold out, as are other shows such as the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Alfred Brendel and Gabriela Montero.

Sales for dance shows have also been particularly strong.

Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray is already the biggest selling dance show at the festival in a decade.

Organisers said the re-telling of Oscar Wilde's Gothic fable could become the biggest dance event in the festival's 62-year history.

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