2008 Hong Kong Arts Festival

October 16th, 2007

Today the Hong Kong Arts Festival announced details of the forthcoming 2008 Festival. In 13 different venues over a period of four weeks – from 14 February through to 16 March 2008* – the Festival will present over 100 performances and related events that feature 31 performing groups – 22 from overseas and 9 from Hong Kong. A range of exceptional artists from around the world will participate in this Festival, including approximately 1,000 overseas performers and over 370 local performers and supporting staff.

Festival Chairman Mr Charles Lee said, “The Festival has established a strong tradition of bringing the best international talent to Hong Kong each year, and providing a showcase for artists in our own community. This is an eagerly anticipated annual event covering many disciplines and interests, and offers something for everyone with an interest in the performing arts, both residents and visitors alike.”

Classics and Innovation

Once again, the Festival has achieved its mission to bring Hong Kong audiences the very best from the world of performing arts, including productions that are remarkable, thought-provoking and visionary. “There is significant star power in the 2008 Hong Kong Arts Festival,” said Festival Executive Director Ms Tisa Ho. “In the 36th Festival, you will find distinguished members of the performing arts community at home, and some of the world’s top talent from around the globe. Each one conjures up entrancement and promises memorable performances.”

Many of the artists in this Festival are major pioneering creative forces. “Inspiring and stimulating at any time, this type of creative genius is particularly exciting for us today, as we embark on the journey towards a unique opportunity to achieve new paradigms in performing arts infrastructure and management presented by the West Kowloon Cultural District.” Ms Tisa Ho said.

Opening the Festival this year is the spectacular Stuttgart Ballet in their ground-breaking rendition of the well-loved classic, SwanLake – as originally choreographed by John Cranko. Celebrating the 80th anniversary of Cranko’s birth and in honour of his pioneering contribution to dance, the Festival proudly presents two of his greatest legacies; after the opening night’s Swan Lake, comes the magnificent Onegin. Equally grand in scale and sumptuous in detail is Teatro Regio di Parma’s production of Verdi’s monumental opera, Rigoletto. With its long and celebrated history, not least as host of the annual Verdi Festival, Teatro Regio offers audiences an authentic Italian experience of Verdi’s masterpiece. It is also the first Italian opera house be performed in the Hong Kong Arts Festival.

Orchestral music lovers will be delighted by the presence of two of the world’s leading orchestras. First, the New York Philharmonic performs in three evenings of great orchestral music, led by Music Director Lorin Maazel and Associate Conductor Zhang Xian. Then, the London Philharmonic Orchestra returns to the Festival with its newly inaugurated Principal Conductor, Vladimir Jurowski. The orchestra will perform in two evenings, joined by notable soloists, Nikolaj Znaider and Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

In addition to the orchestral fare, a contrasting repertoire of vocal music is on offer this Festival. The London Philharmonic Choir will sing in two separate evenings; the first a selection of Russian symphonic works and the second some English organ-accompanied anthems. On a very different scale, the three, pitch-perfect, soprano voices of Trio Mediaval will sing their soaring renditions of 13th Century a cappella music and Norwegian ballads in St John’s Cathedral. And finally, Chinese baritone Yuan Chenye will mesmerise listeners with a variety of masterpieces written for the voice.

In theatre, great literary works are masterfully rendered by leading directors and actors of our time. Peter Brook, the visionary director and icon of theatre, presents Hong Kong with Fragments, a seamless joining of five short pieces by Nobel Laureate in Literature Samuel Beckett. And China’s most accomplished and prominent theatre director, Lin Zhaohua, directs Henrik Ibsen’s rarely-seen work The Master Builder. In Chinese opera, Yuen Siu-fai directs a local cast of acclaimed performers in three signature vignettes by the great classical playwright, Guan Hanqing, and the Peking Opera House of Beijing presents four works that commemorate the late master of Chou, Xiao Changhua.

New theatrical works also feature in this festival, presenting sharp, witty perspectives on contemporary culture. In Chatroomand Citizenship, from the National Theatre of Great Britain, the compelling and often confused world of teenagers on the verge of adulthood is starkly and humorously presented. The American Repertory Theatre performs the Asian Premiere of its Pulitzer Prize finalist Orpheus X – an edgy blend of theatre and music that recasts the Greek myth of Orpheus, into the modern age.

In dance, all the performances offer a delicate blend of passion, skill and unbelievable artistry. Pina Bausch and her dance-theatre troupe present their ‘wet and wild’, 2006 production Vollmond. And Marie Chouinard brings the Festival her brand new Ode to Joy L.I.V.E. (provisional title), making Hong Kong the first Asian stop on a 2008 World Tour. We also welcome the first visit to Hong Kong of the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble, who will no doubt delight audiences with their traditional Hungarian dances, in a homage to Bela Bartok.

Festival Stars

World luminaries participating in the 2008 Hong Kong Arts Festival include virtuoso pianist Andras Schiff, playing works of Beethoven and Schumann; multi-talented pianist Joanna MacGregor in the first-ever complete performance of Messiaen’s Vingt regards sur l’enfant Jesus in Hong Kong; legendary statesman of Jazz Ornette Coleman; the ‘Sun’ of Latin music Eddie Palmieri and the Andalusian-born flamenco guitarist, Tomatito.

The Festival also brings to the audience’s attention a selection of young, rising stars. Hiromi Uehara is a powerful and promising Jazz pianist known for her heartfelt and dynamic recitals. Hong Kong-born composer Ng Cheuk-yin also crosses the cultural divide with his eclectic band SIU2, in Sheng It Up, a musical reflection of the melee of Hong Kong’s cultural influences. Pius Cheung is a deft and agile marimba player, offering remarkable renditions of Bach and other piano masterpieces, cleverly re-arranged for his instrument.

Well known musical personalities and institutions from Hong Kong are also represented. The city’s major music ensembles, the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, will both participate in the Festival, under the batons of their respective distinguished directors. The Hong Kong Repertory Theatre will present an original musical Family Protection Unit.

Festival Productions and New Commissions

Encouraging new work is a cornerstone of the Festival’s mission, and two of the 36th Festival’s commissioned theatre pieces – Titus Andronicus and The Shape of Things – will add to the growing body of work created by Hong Kong’s theatre talent. William Shakespeare and Neil LaBute, though centuries apart, shed light on our modern world in two superb adaptations.

The Festival is also delighted to join hands with the Danny Yung Experimental Theatre in Tears of Barren Hills, the story of the innovative Chinese opera female lead Cheng Yanqiu and his efforts to integrate performing arts practices, from both East and West.

Multiple Dimensions

There is also a wide range of ‘PLUS’ workshops, meet-the-artist sessions, background talks, masterclasses, youth programmes and other events in the Festival PLUS programme. The Young Friends Scheme continues to be a strong aspect of the Festival’s work, in nurturing and stimulating interest in the arts among secondary school and university students.

The total operating budget for the 2008 Festival is approximately $70 million. The Festival received a subvention of $15.73 million from the Government, through the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and an $8 million donation from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust. The Festival will raise approximately $17 million through sponsorships and donations and close to $27 million through ticket sales.

The Programme & Booking Guide is available at all URBTIX outlets from 17 October 2007. The Festival has produced a CD Sampler, offering a preview selection from the forthcoming Festival’s music programmes. Audiences may also view video highlights of selected programmes on the Festival website, or request a free VCD/CD-ROM or a CD sampler by returning the request form in the Programme & Booking Guide. Discs are limited and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Advance Bookings for the 2008 Hong Kong Arts Festival will be accepted by post, fax or on the Festival website from 17 October through to 24 November 2007.

Counter Bookings will start on 1 December 2007. Patrons can check in the Programme & Booking Guide or visit the Hong Kong Arts Festival website at www.hk.artsfestival.org for more details.

For further enquiries, please contact Ms Katy Cheng, Marketing Director, at tel: 2828 4930 or the following Marketing staff members:


Music/Opera :Mr Dennis Wu (dennis.wu@hkaf.org)
Chinese Opera/Theatre/Dance :Ms Alexia Chow (alexia.chow@hkaf.org)



* Chatroom + Citizenship of the National Theatre of Great Britain will open on 13 February, one day before the official opening.

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