Speech by Ms Grace Lang (Programme Director of Hong Kong Arts Festival Society Ltd) at the 2010 HKAF Kick-off Press Conference

October 14th, 2009

Consummate theatricality characterises this year's Hong Kong Arts Festival (HKAF). Benjamin Britten's opera The Turn of the Screw, which is a vivid depiction of human nature and psychologies, is Scottish director David McVicar's most representative work. The Liaisons, conceived and directed by Fredric Mao, explores the ideals of love. The Truth About Lying is a wryly humourous new play about marriage break-ups by Wong Wing-sze, co-directed with Lee Chun-chow. Both Mao and Wong's productions highlight the domination, frivolity and affection in a romantic relationship, while Dutch master choreographer Hans van Manen teases out the underlying power struggle between the sexes. The expert hand of their directors is evident in these classics and new works.

As for theatre works that reflect their times, acclaimed stage and screen director Sam Mendes gathers the best British and American stage actors to realise William Shakespeare's magical tragicomedy The Tempest. Chinese theatre innovator Lin Zhaohua brings the short stories of the People's Artist – Lao She – to the stage. With the unassuming humour of old Beijing, this special world premiere celebrates the 111th anniversary of Lao She's birth.

There are also stage productions that examine society and the responsibilities of live performance. On the Waterfront exposes post-war morality, and is brought to life by renowned British director Steven Berkoff in his pioneering, bold physical theatre. The ever-experimental Danny Yung, who uses theatre as a way to expound and prove, rethinks traditions and innovations in theatre in the past 600 years using the Chinese legend in which circumstances force Lin Chong to become a criminal. These directors of our time will unleash the full power of theatre at the 2010 Festival.

The music programmes of this Festival blaze new trails with a series of performances built around the Poet of the Piano, Fryderyk Chopin. 2010 is the bicentenary of the birth of this prolific composer who left countless splendid works. The Pianist fuses concert with theatre, and features 10 of Chopin's piano pieces plus two works by the hero of the story, Polish pianist W adys aw Szpilman. The performance celebrates Szpilman's indestructible faith in art even under Nazi prosecution. The work of Chopin's Parisian neighbour, the colourful pianist and composer Valentin Alkan, will also feature. Alkan's technically flamboyant Concerto for Solo Piano will be played by another virtuoso pianist, Mark Latimer, together with Chopin's Allegro de Concert, in a specially conceived recital.

The continuation of traditions and exchange of experience between different generations of artists are key ideas of this year's HKAF. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, and we are presenting some of the most important forms of traditional cultural heritage in celebration. From the graceful kun opera to the majestic Cantonese opera, we will present these distillations of Chinese culture to a modern, international audience. Three female naamyam singers from three different generations and cities – Hong Kong, Macau and Guangzhou – will also perform on the same stage. On the Western side, the 80-year-old conductor Christoph von Dohnanyi will lead the Philharmonia Orchestra in its 65th year; countertenor and early music master conductor, Rene Jacobs, and his former student, the highly acclaimed countertenor Andreas Scholl will both perform under different banners; giants from the golden age of tango in the 1940s and 1950s form the tango orchestra, Cafe de los Maestros; and female jazz vocalists continue the artistic legacy of the High Priestess of Soul, Nina Simone. The younger generation is headed by the passionate Chinese world music diva Sa Dingding, together with the popular Spanish group Ojos de Brujo, the multi-media composer Samson Young, and the Austrian-based Chinese choreographer Qu Jianan. The exceptional talent of these young stars matches the traditional excellence of the masters.

The Festival embraces the energy and excitement of the performing arts. I encourage you all to join us at the 38th HKAF; to enjoy, marvel and celebrate the beauty of drama, music and movement all around us.


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