Northern Ireland’s flagship arts extravaganza has gotten under way with one of the giants of the classical music world taking to the stage for the opening of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s.
Renowned Russian conductor Valery Gergiev wowed the audience at the Waterfront Hall last night as he led the Mariinsky Orchestra at the opening concert of this year’s programme.
Following a slight delay the orchestra took to the stage for an impassioned first half.
The second half saw an equally rousing production of Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony which met with a rapturous response from the crowd.
Although the venue was not full, it was more than filled by the applause.
Meanwhile, two of Ireland's greatest literary figures, poets Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley, will join the Ulster Orchestra at the Waterfront Hall tonight for an evening of words and music to mark their 70th birthdays this year.
Professor Ellen Douglas-Cowie, Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Queen’s University said the line-up for this year is very diverse and should appeal to people of all ages from a variety of backgrounds.
“The content and subjects portrayed address topics such as the recession and women in work, changes in policing, religious and sexual intolerance and the holocaust,” she said.
“There is hard hitting drama, laugh out loud comedy, invigorating music, mind-blowing dance and a series of exquisite talks and tours. The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s truly has something for everybody.”
Highlights of this year's programme include a fiery outdoor adaptation of Macbeth at Clarendon Dock by Polish theatre company Teatr Biuro Podrozy, as well as To Be Straight With You, a hard-hitting play at the Grand Opera House about violence against gay people.
Comedians Julian Clary and Sean Hughes are also on the programme.
The festival runs until October 31.
For tickets and programme information on the festival visit www.belfastfestival.com or call 028 9097 1197.