Speech by Mr Douglas Gautier (Executive Director, Hong Kong Arts Festival Society Ltd) at the 2005 Festival Kick-off Press Conference

October 28th, 2004

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to echo our Chairman's welcome and thanks to you all.

The 2005 Festival will offer a total of 121 performances with 42 performing groups - 32 overseas/ 10 local - with two exhibitions, and an important extra - our inclusive Festival Plus programme of talks, seminars, meet-the-artist sessions.

The starting point for the programming of this 2005 Festival was the idea of contrasting opposites - 'the sacred and the profane' or 'spiritual and secular'. Both of these elements are rich sources of creative impulses for the performing arts and this is particularly evident in our music programming.

We open the Festival with Otello, which many consider to be Verdi's greatest opera. This fine production by the Polish National Opera 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 18th Century and the Gulbenkian Choir under Frans Bruggen. This set of special concerts will be augmented by an exhibition from the Beethoven House in Bonn. Other classical delights include, the pianist Fazil Say, the Brazilian Guitar Quartet, the Ensemble Antipodes, the Ysaye Quartet and the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra with the brilliant pianist Leif Ove Andsnes.

Among other variations on this spiritual and secular theme are superb concert programmes from the Russian Orthodox Choir, Cantus Dei, performing at St John's Cathedral; the hot gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama and the entrancing gypsy band Divana from Rajasthan.

Our world music and jazz programmes will also draw on the talents of Regina Carter, Poncho Sanchez, Lila Downs, Brad Mehldau and a fascinating retrospective of jazz from the Shanghai of the 1920's and 1930's.

The Suzhou Kun Opera Theater of Jiangsu Province brings The Palace of Eternal Youth, a story of a tragic love affair from the Tang dynasty. The beautiful settings and costumes are designed byOscar winner Tim Yip, whose work makes a welcome reappearance at our Festival. In addition we will showcase the Cantonese Opera master works of Tong Tik-sang, starring top-notch actors Mui Suet-see and Lee Lung.

Nothing could be more secular or sensual than flamenco music and dance, and the Ballet Nacional de Espana will bring a mostly flamenco programme. The dance component also includes the Bejart Ballet Lausanne, Compagnia Aterballetto from Italy, Saburo Teshigawara/KARAS from Japan and the Nederlands Dans Theater III, as well as a commission Little Prince Hamlet, from leading young Asian choreographers and theatre artists.

In this Festival there is a strong focus on theatre. Our major commission will be from the National Theatre Company of China which will bring a new work entitled Amber. This promises to be an important piece of new work and we are delighted that it will premiere at our Festival.

We have also commissioned from the Yellow Earth and the Chung Ying Theatre companies, The Nightingale based on Hans Christian Andersen's story and which will mark the bicentenary of the author's birth.

The French Kiss is another local theatre commission, and deals with a sensational subject which provides great dramatic impetus for this provocative and powerful drama. There are also many other theatre and circus works from France, Chile and a further Hong Kong commission, i-City.

While from Italian Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo, comes Johan Padan and the Discovery of America, an irreverent and spicy story of Christopher Columbus's expedition to America.

We are also proud to present the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre in special Festival programmes as well as the outstanding young Hong Kong musicians, pianist Rachel Cheung and the Fresh Air Brass Quintet. Also do take a look at our Festival Plus programme - with a wide range of 'meet-the-artist' sessions and background talks.

This will be one of our biggest Festivals to date, in terms of the number and the diversity of programmes. I am sure too that it will be one of our most enjoyable. Do take a look at our web site which has just won the Outstanding Website WebAward in the 2004 WebAwards Competition by the Web Marketing Association, USA. And may I suggest that like many of our friends you take advantage of our internet booking service. Details are all on our web site. We hope to see you at the Festival and we thank you for your ongoing support.


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