A Bohemian romance, set to a ravishing musical score, will herald the start of 10 days of world-class music, drama, dance and the spoken word across 48 of the region’s venues.
The rousing arias of Puccini’s timeless classic La Boheme will sing out from Dumfries’ Easterbrook Hall on Friday, 20 May, and provides the first taste of the quality of live performances to come in the 2016 Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival.
Now in its 37th year, Scotland’s largest rural performing arts festival is bigger, broader and more popular than ever before, and 2016 is already proving to be a box office record-breaker.
Programme director Peter Renwick said: “Last year’s ticket sales doubled on 2014 and early indications show that we are 40% ahead of ticket sales compared to this time in 2015.
“This is fantastic news. We put a lot of thought and hard work into the festival and it is wonderful to see its popularity grow so dramatically over the past few years.”
There are many special highlights to the 2016 festival which takes place in venues across the region from Stranraer in the West to Langholm in the east, north to Thornhill to south in Kirkcudbright.
Performances of particular note include a classical music residency by the UK’s only professional string orchestra. The Scottish Ensemble takes four days out from its Glasgow base to come to Dumfries and Galloway. They will be holding a tea dance at The Usual Place in Dumfries; accompanying Stranraer’s award-winning singer Robyn Stapleton in a concert in Newton Stewart; and holding one of their own vibrant concerts at the Theatre Royal, Dumfries.
Leading a big comedy programme this year, is 25-year-old stand-up comedian Daniel Sloss. The TV sensation has enjoyed sell-out performances all over the world. His humour is witty, hard-hitting and not for the easily offended. Daniel comes to the Corner House, Annan, for the festival.
Anyone who has witnessed the enthralling multi-sensory theatrical performance of The Man Who Planted Trees will be familiar with the fascinating work of Puppet State Theatre Company. This was one of those ingenious and beautiful productions that immersed the imaginations of its audiences into one man’s fascinating story.
Puppet State brings another short story to life with its touring production of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel Leaf by Niggle to two of the region’s popular venues: the Theatre Royal, Dumfries, and the CatStrand, New Galloway.
Described as “Simply told but intricately layered”, this is a poignant story about the life-defining journey of an artist struggling to complete his magnum opus, a painting of a curious tree, and recounts Tolkien’s miniature masterpiece with music specially composed by Karine Polwart and Michael John McCarthy.
Contemporary meets traditional in the festival’s music programme and the line-up includes Mercury nominated English folk musician, Sam Lee; the
hugely successful Songs of Separation with the Cairn Chorus; and a big, brash and brassy performance by the mighty Orkestra del Sol.
These are just a few of the 85 live performances taking place during 10 days at the end of May in what is looking to be another record-breaking year for the Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival.
Festival chair Ken Gouge said: “We are delighted that early indicators show such a big rise in ticket sales compared to this time last year.
“This wonderful achievement can be put down to the hard work of the festival’s staff, board and venue managers as well as the success of our guarantee scheme which helps the region’s venues and promoters to afford to host and promote top performance artists with minimum financial risk.”
For the full programme of events and further information, pick up a brochure from outlets across the region or visit the festival website at www.dgartsfestival.org.uk