The Edinburgh International Festival (EIF), parent of the larger Edinburgh Fringe, has kicked off in the Scottish capital, with advance ticket sales reportedly 8 percent up on last year.

The 65th EIF opened officially last night (9 August 2012) with the annual Opening Concert, which this year featured a performance of Delius’ A Mass of Life, performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra led by Sir Andrew Davies.

The concert was part of Festival 2012’s celebration of the best of British music and the first of 23 concerts taking place at the Usher Hall every evening throughout Edinburgh International Festival.

The EIF, which launched in 1947 and takes place at venues across the Scottish capital, showcasing theatre, music, dance and opera.

Among the new venues this year is the Royal Highland Centre’s Lowland Hall, which will be converted into a theatrical space housing three productions which can’t be staged in conventional theatres.

The venue will house Grzegorz Jarzyna’s multi-media version of Macbeth set in the Middle East (2008: Macbeth, 11-18 August), and French director Ariane Mnouchkine returning to the UK after a gap of 20 years with Les Naufragés du Fol Espoir (Aurores) (23-28 August). Christoph Marthaler also makes a rare appearance in the UK with an off the wall adaptation of My Fair Lady entitled Meine faire Dame – ein Sprachlabor (14-19 August).

Other theatre directors making rare appearances in the UK at the Edinburgh International Festival this year include theatre pedagog and theorist Tadashi Suzuki with his version of Electra (King’s Theatre, 11-13 August) and Dmitry Krymov’s new production titled A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It) (King’s Theatre, 24-26 August).

2008: Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It) are joined by the RSC’s The Rape of Lucrece (Royal Lyceum, 22-26 August) performed by Camille O’Sullivan and Feargal Murray in forming the Festival’s contribution to the World Shakespeare Festival.

The increase in ticket sales comes as a boost following fears that the Olympics and Paralympics would pose a threat to visitor numbers this year. According to press material: "The Festival opens for 2012 with audiences having snapped up 8% more tickets than at the same time last year to Edinburgh International Festival events."

For coverage of the EIF and Fringe Festivals, visit Whatsonstage.com/Edinburgh