Nov 29, 2007|
Hong Kong is kick-starting 2008 with a bang at the 36th annual Hong Kong Arts Festival. Over a period of four weeks, 13 different venues across the city will showcase a wide variety of over 100 performances, including operas, ballets and everything in between. The festival will feature 31 performing groups and over 1,000 performers, some hailing from overseas and others from good ol’ Hong Kong.
This year, Hong Kong welcomes back past festival performers, including the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre, while embracing first-timers, most prolific of whom is the Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Ornette Coleman. “All the artists are not just fabulous, but also influential. They have all brought a new vision to their art form,” says Tisa Ho, the Festival’s executive director.
Sidelining the performances are the “plus events,” which are workshops, symposiums and talks hosted by the artists. “These events are to enrich the festival, and give people an opportunity for in-depth exploration,” says Ho. “This festival will be known for the whole package rather than a few parts.”
Feb 14-16. Grand Theatre, Cultural Centre. Tickets $90-$780.
The Arts Festival opens with an old favorite, “Swan Lake,” performed by the Stuttgart Ballet following renowned South African choreographer John Cranko’s original composition and Piotr Tchaikovsky’s musical score. This performance celebrates the 80th anniversary of Cranko’s birth, and honors the immense contribution that the choreographing heavyweight has made to the world of artistic dance.
Feb 9-Mar 23. Hung Hom Pier Lawn. Tickets $200-$500
The biggest show at this year’s festival is a hybrid theater piece combining equestrian performances and a circus show with 36 horses, 57 acrobats and belly dancers, and a gleaming tower of cascading water. The event will happen in a specially built tent on the lawn near the Hung Hom ferry pier, which can seat 1,200 people at a time. What better way to warm up for the Olympic equestrian events later in the year?
Feb 19-21. Grand Theatre, Cultural Centre. Tickets $90-$780.
“Onegin” is the second ballet in a two-performance tribute to groundbreaking artistic director of the Stuttgart Ballet, John Cranko. Based on Alexander Pushkin’s novel, “Eugene Onegin,” the ballet tells the story of a young girl, Tatiana, who is rejected by her love, Onegin, and subsequently grows into a beautiful woman. Having realized his loss, Onegin attempts to win back her affections. These events lead up to a heartbreaking climax in which Tatiana must choose between love and moral duty, a dramatic scene that is enhanced by Tchaikovsky’s exquisite score. “These productions don’t just have wonderful dancing, but also concentrate on characterization and emotional depth,” Ho explains of both “Onegin” and “Swan Lake.”
Feb 15-18. Performed in English with Chinese subtitles. Studio Theatre, Cultural Centre. Tickets $110-$620.
“Fragments” is the quirky dark horse of this year’s Arts Festival, making Hong Kong its only Asian stop on a major world tour. It’s also possibly the most intriguing of the Festival’s performances. “They’re coming to us, then turning around and going home,” explains Ho. Celebrated stage director Peter Brook and a stellar cast (including Kathryn Hunter, who plays Arabella Figg in the “Harry Potter” movies) brings us this collection of five plays by Samuel Beckett, whose witty pessimism pulses throughout the five “fragments”: Rough for Theatre, Rockaby, Act without Words II, Neither, and Come and Go.
Mar 7-16. Performed in Cantonese with English subtitles. Studio Theatre, Cultural Centre. Tickets $200-$340.
Neil Labute’s most popular play makes its Hong Kong debut at the festival. “The Shape of Things” is a female version of “The Company of Men,” and a story of betrayal and trust. Starring award-winning actress Louisa So and new, hot singer Zac Koo.
Mar 7-11. Performed in Italian with English and Chinese subtitles. Grand Theatre, Cultural Centre. Tickets $125-$1,280.
Making its Asian premiere at this year’s Arts Festival is the acclaimed “Rigoletto,” an Italian opera performed by the Teatro Regio di Parma. Dramatic, vibrant and sensuous, “Rigoletto” tells the tale of a court jester who gets ensnared in a deadly curse after double-crossing the wrong dignitary. Don’t you hate it when that happens?
Feb 21-23. Performed in English with Chinese subtitles. Lyric Theatre, Academy for Performing Arts. Tickets $60-$480.
Rock music and classic Greek mythology marry well in “Orpheus X.” For the ancient Greeks, Orpheus was a master lyre musician who braved the underworld in an attempt to win back his deceased wife, Eurydice. Now, a couple millennia later, the American Repertory Theatre has reinvented Orpheus as a narcissistic, chart-topping rock star whose taxi hits and kills a stranger, Eurydice, who happens to be an unknown poet.
Feb 28-29. Concert Hall, Cultural Centre. Tickets $100-$500.
This is a golden opportunity to see a living legend of jazz perform. Coleman is a pioneer whose work has transformed modern jazz. “We were talking to him before, and it was a coincidence that he got the Grammy Lifetime Achievement award. We know how to spot good talent,” says Ho. Let the tunes from his saxophone bring music to your ears like you’ve never known before.
Feb 29-Mar 1, 7.30pm. Performed with Chinese subtitles and English scene synopses. Lyric Theatre, Academy for Performing Arts. Tickets $60-$280.
The Peking Opera House of Beijing celebrates the great comic legend, Master Xiao Changhua, on the 130th anniversary of his birth. The four shows presented here are closely associated with the performer. Program 1 contains “Conflicts between the Baos and Luos (Part 1)” and the “Story of the Clay Pot.” Program 2 has “Conflicts between the Baos and Luos (Part 2), Red Mulberry Town and Assassination of Tang Qin.” “This is the first time that the character of the clown is put in the limelight,” Ho says.
Mar 7-9. Performed in Putonghua with English and Chinese subtitles. Lyric Theatre, Academy for Performing Arts. Tickets $140-$260.
“The Master Builder” is one of the later plays by Henrik Ibsen, adapted here by China’s most famous theater director Lin Zhaohua. It became the most popular show in China during 2006. If you didn’t get to see it in Beijing last year, here’s your chance.