The 37th Hong Kong Arts Festival 2009

October 15th, 2008

Today the Hong Kong Arts Festival (HKAF) announced details of the forthcoming 37th HKAF 2009. In 31 different venues within a period of 32 days – from 6 February through to 8 March 2009* – HKAF will present over 150 performances and related events that feature 37 performing groups** – 29 from overseas and 8 from Hong Kong. A range of exceptional artists from around the world will participate in the 37th HKAF, including 1,419 overseas performers and 337 local performers and supporting staff.

HKAF Chairman Mr Charles Lee said, “This annual celebration of the arts is a major highlight in the Asia Pacific region, one that Hong Kong eagerly anticipates. HKAF is a wonderful cultural event that enhances our community and draws international visitors. Each year HKAF presents the best international talent and provides a platform from which to showcase our own local artists.” Once again, HKAF presents groundbreaking works and expands the horizons of Hong Kong artists and audiences with work that is visionary, multi-disciplined and original. Much more than an annual cultural feast for Hong Kong, HKAF is a meeting place for creative minds, a showcase of the best international and local performing arts and a platform for innovative new works. The 2009 programme surpasses the hallmark of excellence for which HKAF is known. “The 37th HKAF continues to present the world’s best performing arts productions,” said HKAF Executive Director Ms Tisa Ho. “HKAF seeks to meet the expectations of excellence that are now an established hallmark – and to go some way further. In the 37th HKAF, we are doing this literally as well as metaphorically.”

Powerful Music

This year HKAF presents four of the world’s leading orchestras. Opening the 37th HKAF is the spectacular Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the legendary maestro Bernard Haitink. Northern Sinfonia, led by Music Director Thomas Zehetmair, is considered one of Europe's most exciting chamber orchestras. Established by Ton Koopman, the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, one of the pre-eminent ensembles of the world, brings together the finest baroque specialists, and the acclaimed Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, now under the baton of Ingo Metzmacher, performs large-scale symphonic works by Austro-German masters.

In addition to the orchestral fare, a repertoire of vocal music is on offer this HKAF. The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir sings a cappella works by living composer Arvo Part. Chinese bass-baritone Shen Yang, winner of the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, sings a selection of Lieder.

In recitals, Ton Koopman will play an organ recital for the first time in Hong Kong. Pianist Sergio Tiempo will mesmerise listeners. Hong Kong musicians are also highlighted. Award-winning cellist Trey Lee will perform with the Northern Sinfonia in a chamber concert. In the ExxonMobil Vision series, harpist Teresa Suen explores the repertoire of harp and premieres Chan Hing-yan’s new composition.

An outstanding line-up of jazz and world music is in store. Chick Corea and John McLaughlin reunite 40 years after playing in Miles Davis’s famous band, winsome star Lisa Ono celebrates the 50 years of bossa nova and Omar Sosa’s world music transports listeners elsewhere.

Classical and Contemporary

The 37th HKAF presents the best of traditional and contemporary opera. Commemorating the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death, the Latvian National Opera presents Handel’s operatic masterpiece, Alcina. The company’s production of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk will also thrill opera buffs. The famous repertoires from the classic yue operas performed by the lyrical and all-woman troupe, Shanghai Yueju Opera Theatre, are not to be missed.

We find both tradition and innovation in theatre and dance. Sir Peter Hall presents Hong Kong with Pygmalion. New York-based The Wooster Group revives Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones. The eerie and touching Vesturport production of Kafka’s Metamorphosis ushers theatre-goers into Franz Kafka’s world of strange juxtapositions with a sharp re-examination of his famously alarming tale of transformation and alienation. Inspired by the Lu Gui Bu (Book of Ghosts), written by Zhong Sicheng in the Yuan dynasty, Danny Yung invites four Asian traditional arts masters to showcase the merge of traditional arts with their contemporary vision in a multi-media production.

The National Ballet of China, internationally recognised for its fabulous rendition of Raise the Red Lantern brings The Peony Pavilion, adapted from China’s most passionate love story. The magical ballet adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland by the English National Ballet will delight children and adults alike.

New productions

Providing a platform for local and emerging talent is one of the HKAF’s ongoing missions. This year HKAF commissions and produces two plays that add to the growing body of work created by Hong Kong’s theatre talent. Murder in San Jose is a finely written psychological thriller by the award-winning local playwright, Chong Mui-ngam, and directed by Lee Chun-chow. Young playwright Yat Yau teams up with director Victor Pang to produce Black Swan, a modern interpretation of SwanLake.

The 37th HKAF features an array of startling contemporary dances. French-Vietnamese choreographer Ea Sola’s The White Body, commissioned by five festivals and theatres, will receive its world premiere in Hong Kong. Oscar-winning actress Juliette Binoche and internationally recognised choreographer Akram Khan join forces to create an exciting 2008 new dance theatre work In-I. Hong Kong is the first stop in Asia on its world premiere tour. The Asia Pacific Dance Platform features inspiring pieces from six choreographers/dancers and a series of workshops and discussions designed to create a dance synergy that will promote the awareness and appreciation of contemporary dance in Hong Kong.

As part of the ExxonMobil Vision series, Hong Kong’s own captivating and experimental band, Primary Shapes, will create an avant-pop multi-media production.

Mentorship Scheme

This year HKAF launches a three-year Mentorship Scheme with Fredric Mao as the first mentor. This newly created scheme aims to support outstanding local talents. Mao will guide and collaborate with playwright Yat Yau along the creative path from concept to production through the making of Black Swan.

New Venues

To expand the scope and variety offered by HKAF, and to introduce exciting, alternative performance experiences, HKAF is holding events in venues newly made available for Festival performances. Wang Jian plays Bach’s suites on the 55th floor of Two IFC. Award-winning UK writer/performer Tim Crouch presents England at an art gallery in Hollywood Road. And, Northern Sinfonia Chamber Concert, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass, Circo Aereo’s Un cirque plus juste, Karbido’s The Table and Black Swan will appear in the New Territories.

New Dimensions

We continue to expand the scope of the 37th HKAF and nurture the audiences of the future with a wide range of ‘PLUS’ workshops. These include meet-the-artist sessions, talks, masterclasses, youth programmes and other events in the Festival Plus programme. The Young Friends Scheme goes from strength to strength as it nurtures and stimulates interest in the arts among secondary school and university students.

The total operating budget for the 37th HKAF is over $78 million. HKAF has received a subvention of $18.65 million from the Government through the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. The contribution from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust is about $8 million. HKAF hopes to raise approximately $16.6 million through sponsorship, donations and the Young Friends Scheme and close to $32 million through ticket sales. As always, we will endeavour to improve on these projections.

The Programme & Booking Guide is available at all URBTIX outlets from 16 October 2008. HKAF has produced a CD Sampler, offering a preview selection from the forthcoming HKAF’s music programmes. Audiences may also view video highlights of selected programmes on HKAF website, or request a free DVD/DVD-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 37th HKAF will be accepted by post, fax or on the HKAF website from 16 October to 28 November, 2008. Counter Bookings will start on 6 December, 2008. Patrons can check in the Programme & Booking Guide or visit the HKAF website at for more details***. For further enquiries, please contact Ms Katy Cheng, Marketing Director, at tel: 2824 3555 or the following Marketing staff members:


Opera/Music programmes:Mr Dennis WU (
Chinese Opera/Theatre/Dance programmes:Ms Alexia CHOW (
 Ms FAN Ho Ki (



* Pygmalion will open on 5 February, one day before the official opening.

** The performers of Beijing Opera Extravaganza, albeit coming from various opera troupes, are counted as one performing unit in the statistics.

*** The 37th Hong Kong Arts Festival website is developed by wwwins consulting.

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