The Harrogate International Festival opens today, 23 July and runs until Saturday 8 August 1998. The two week spectacular includes a wide range of events from jazz, blues and classical music, open air and dance concerts as well as a preview of theatre and comedy acts appearing next month at the Edinburgh Fringe festival.

Highlights for 1998 include: Lesley Garrett, Britain s favourite soprano, as the Festival s Artist in Residence, appearing at a Gala concert, in recital and in cabaret; the flamenco guitarist Paco Peña with his Flamenco Dance Company; a rare British concert appearance by legendary blues guitarist B.B. King; principal stars and soloists from the New York City Ballet; and the Philharmonia Orchestra.

The Best of the Edinburgh Fringe at Harrogate will include Bafta award-winning writer and stand-up Dave Gorman, an Oddsocks production of Much Ado About Nothing, Donna Jackson s one-woman show Car Maintenance, Explosives and Love from Australia, the Squonk Opera from America and a comedy gala.

The Harrogate Festival will take place at venues across the city, including the Harrogate International Centre, Royal Hall, Harrogate Theatre and Ripon Cathedral. A number of free events include opening night celebrations, the Harrogate Fiesta in the Valley Gardens and a full programme of street theatre, music, circus and dance.

Ticket prices for paid-for events range from £5 to £30. Contact the Festival Office on +44-1423-565757 for further information.