Speech by Ms Grace Lang (Programme Director of Hong Kong Arts Festival Society Ltd) at the 2006 Festival Kick-off Press Conference

October 18th, 2005

The Festival, in its 34th year, continues to rise to the challenge of the familiar and the unfamiliar, great names and new names. Artistic excellence and leadership are our priorities. We continue to serve as a catalyst in bringing in the latest artistic trends and innovations, and we strive to reach out to the younger generations and arouse a wider interest in the Arts.
 
We have managed to obtain the exclusive first-run rights, outside their home bases, for the highly acclaimed National Theatre of Britain's production of The History Boys; the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre production of 'Cursive: A Trilogy' - a complete cycle of three performances, which the distinguished Lin Hwai-min put together from 2000-2005; and U-Theatre and the Shaolin Temple Wushu Training Centre production of A Touch of Zen. The Festival platform is one that international artists esteem, and we are honoured to have the opportunity to showcase these freshly produced works.
 
One would aspire to see great masters at work in a festival. Belgium's 'dancing queen' Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker has promised to put together a dance gala for us, with herself dancing in a piece titled Once to Joan Baez in Concert, Part 2. The American music theme streams on with Steve Reich's (celebrating his 70th birthday) Music for 18 Musicians set to De Keersmaeker's group piece Rain, and John Coltrane's A Love Supreme wrapping up the gala in Raga for the Rainy Season/A Love Supreme (Asian premiere) - a prayer to love and the end of a rainy season. 
 
The younger Hong Kong new wave has been our primary search for 2006. New talents uncovered this year include composers Leon Ko (his score for the Actors' Family production of The Legend of the White Snake), Stephen Yip ( the world premiere of his Novela by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta) and singer-songwriters Pong Nan and Gloria Tang; directors Victor Pang (for Actors' Family), Andy Ng (for the theatre piece Ending the World at the Cattle Depot Artist Village) and Tang Wai-kit (for We Draman's production of The Unexpected Man); and pianist Lio Kuok Wai (for ExxonMobil Vision).

The Festival is also addressing a pressing issue facing traditional Chinese opera: do we have a new generation of artists  Locally, we have created a new project with new stars, hand-picked by Maestro Yuen Siu-fai, aiming to recognise new talents and preserve the essence of traditional Cantonese Opera.  We will  encourage  impresarios of regional operas to attend the Festival performances and select their favourite stars for future promotion. From the Mainland, we have invited the new generation of lao sheng and dan performers, Wang Peiyu and Liu Zheng respectively, in a thematic operatic series of 'The Artistry of Gender Switching' alongside actress Koi Ming-fai - Hong Kong's paragon in the art of gender switching.
 
Accessibility is another key concern of our Festival. With this in mind we have included a family ballet, a musical, a circus pizza party, a Baroque music concert for all ages and a special world music programme for wider and more popular appeal. Our Young Friends Scheme, targeting to secondary and university students, continues to be in great demand.
 
As there are so many artists (over 1,300) and performances (106) in this Festival, I hope that as artists and co-workers 'we shall overcome' (Joan Baez) all the hurdles and accept the challenges of another Festival. At the same time we know that the audiences will continue to appreciate and celebrate the power of artistic creation and discover, together with us, all the inner beauties within our Festival programmes!  


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