In view of the reopening of performing venues on 19 February, the Hong Kong Arts Festival announces changes to in-venue programmes. Please visit this page for details.

Speech by Mr Douglas Gautier (at the 2005 Festival Press Luncheon on 18 Aug 2004)

August 18th, 2004

Programme Directions for the 2005 Festival

The starting point for the programming of this 2005 Festival was the idea of contrasting the opposites - "the sacred and the profane" or "spiritual and secular". Both of these elements are rich sources of creative impulses for the arts and we wanted to present and juxtapose a distinctive and engaging spectrum of works inspired by them. This is particularly evident in the music programming.

We open the Festival with Otello, which many consider to be Verdi's finest opera. In this vivid and intense production by the National Polish Opera we see the worldly passions of jealousy and ambition overpowering the goodness of a man, inciting him to destroy all that he loves and values. This will be a spectacular and gripping evening in the theatre.

At the core of our orchestral programme is the complete Beethoven Symphonic Cycle as performed by the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century and the Gulbenkian Choir under Franz Bruggen. This will be a rare opportunity to hear all of these extraordinary works over four evenings. In these symphonies we witness Beethoven's remarkable musical and life journey, with all its earthly and sublime qualities – from the revolutionary fervour of the 3rd, the rustic charms of the 6th to the magnificent spirituality of the 9th. This set of special events will be augmented by a fine exhibition of Beethoven artefacts and memorabilia from the "Beethoven House" in Bonn.

While the Jiangsu Suzhou Kun Opera brings The Palace of Eternal Youth a story of a tragic love affair from the Tang dynasty – set both in the real world where the lovers suffer and die, and then in the spiritual world where the couple are resurrected and reunited. The beautiful settings and costumes are by Oscar winner Tim Yip, whose work makes a welcome reappearance at our Festival.

"Sacred and Profane" - the theme for the 2005 Arts Festival

Nothing could be more secular or sensual than Flamenco music and dance, and in 2005 the Ballet Nacional de Espana will bring a mostly Flamenco programme which will no doubt fire the passions of all who are lucky enough to see them perform. This company is only one element of a very strong dance component in 2005, which also includes Bejart Ballet Lausanne and Nederlands Dance Theatre, to name a few.

The spiritual dimension of Hans Christian Andersen's story The Emperor and the Nightingale is also at the heart of a new theatre work we have commissioned from the Yellow Earth and Chung Ying Theatre companies. This production, The Nightingale based on Andersen's story, marks the bi-centenary of the author's birth. You can expect an evocative and memorable interpretation of this classic from talented young director David Tse.

French Kiss is another local theatre commission, based on an incident where notions of sacred and profane were very much in conflict and which provide the dramatic impetus for this provocative and powerful drama.

2005 is a big year for theatre, and our major commission will be from the National Theatre of China, a new work entitled Amber directed by the talented Meng Jinghui and featuring film actor Liu Ye in the main male role. This promises to be an important piece of new work and we are delighted that it will premiere at our Festival.

I have room here only to touch on a few of our 2005 programmes, there are details some others on our website. Many more programmes are yet to be announced.

This will be one of our biggest Festivals to date, in terms of number and diversity of programmes. I'm sure too that it will be one of our most enjoyable. We look forward to seeing you at Festival time.

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