Speech by Grace Lang (Programme Director of Hong Kong Arts Festival) at the 39th HKAF Kick-off Press Conference on 5 October 2010

October 05th, 2010

The flowers emerging from many artists' creative seeds have bloomed and grown together into a festival of great beauty and variety. At times pensive and thought provoking, but also restless and daring, the 2011 Festival has a magnificent array of performances, born of creativity, passion and hard work.

We celebrate the "Father of Music" this year, Johann Sebastian Bach. From the city of Leipzig Germany, we have St Thomas Boys Choir (Thomanerchor) for whom Bach wrote many pieces when working as their Cantor. They continue a great tradition already lasting centuries. Also from Leipzig we have the unsurpassable Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under the baton of Riccardo Chailly. But that is not all, the Leipzig Opera will perform the monumental Tristan und Isolde, a testament to love by Wagner who incidentally was born and lived in Leipzig. The great architecture and intricacy of Bach's music will also be brought to us by the Bach Collegium Japan, a period orchestra and choir from Tokyo.

It is an exciting festival for those of us who are fans of the keyboard. Liszt's great piano music will be performed by legendary virtuoso pianist Cyprien Katsaris. The grand majestic pipe organ which many associate with cathedrals and days past, explodes into the present day at the hands, and feet, of the unstoppable and fabulous Cameron Carpenter. And master harpsichordist Masaaki Suzuki, will present an evening of splendour where he will entertain us with some immortal classics from his beloved Bach.

The organ is the "King of Instruments" yet when it comes to versatility, another instrument takes the crown — the human voice. This year we have six female vocalists of the highest calibre. Diva of the century Cecilia Bartoli will give the Asian premiere of Sacrificium — the castrati voices. Leading dramatic soprano Jennifer Wilson will perform as Isolde for the Leipzig Opera. Angelika Kirchschlager will give her Hong Kong debut with the Basel Chamber Orchestra in an innovative programme. Rock diva Marianne Faithfull will electrify the city with her raw energy in her latest show, Eternity. The chameleon of style, Ute Lemper will perform some never before heard work by Piazzolla with members of his old band. And lastly Cantonese opera diva Nam Fung will recreate the great Fong singing style of "fan-sin-yi-wong" (“反線二黃” in Chinese). However, we have many more vocal treats. For instance, the dramatic, down-to-earth songs of Brecht and Weill, brought to us by the world-famous Berliner Ensemble and far-out alternative country sounds from Mongolia and Tibet brought to us by Hanggai and Mamer & IZ.

Dance traditions date back to days primal and great pioneers have developed their own styles throughout the ages. In this festival we will see: footsteps in a field of carnations reminding us of Pina Bausch's lasting influence on dance theatre; speed, power and grace rooted in George Balanchine's work performed by his own troupe the New York City Ballet; life lessons and great storytelling entwined with an elegance of movement evidenced in David Bintley and the Birmingham Royal Ballet's Hobson's Choice; our primitive yearnings choreographed in The Golden Lotus by the Beijing Dance Theater, a fresh contemporary troupe, with Wang Yuanyuan exploring the infamous tale of lust; and dance illusions by the radical, psychedelic MOMIX a pioneering group who will bring their best work from the past 30 years.

Theatre is at its most important when bold and innovative. And there are none so bold in theatre today as the Belarus Free Theatre. They will perform Being Harold Pinter and A Flower for Pina Bausch. Cheek by Jowl is a company synonymous with innovation and this year they perform their extraordinary interpretation of Macbeth. Artists from Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei have collaborated this year to bring an action packed show, 108 Heroes, Tales from The Water Margin based on the Chinese classic The Water Margin. And there is a lot more from a fresh young generation of promising directors, scriptwriters, composers, lyricists and musicians who will all be featured in the New Stage series.

For those who enjoy the arts to be more interactive, we have the PLUS programme which brings arts lovers even closer to the core of this festival. An exploration into inspiration. Some will garner a greater understanding of Bach's creative forces and relationship to the church through the Heritage and Music Walk on HK Island and Kowloon Peninsula. Others may choose to discover the universality of the piano in a lecture demonstration with Cyprien Katsaris. And some will learn more about dance from the Birmingham Royal Ballet, who, as Artists-in-Residence, will visit schools giving dance workshops. Documentaries at selected cinemas throughout the city will tell us more about Pina Bausch, the "Queen of Dance Theatre", and the New York City Ballet. Plus the Bang on a Can All-Stars will give lectures, workshops and masterclasses in music. And in an example of true interactivity the All-Stars may even perform one of the pieces created in a workshop during their live performance!
 
The Festival is full of wonder and opportunity. Ralph Emerson once said, "adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience."

Well, we must all be patient and wait for another four and a half months for the start of the Festival.
But another secret of nature is she is prepared. So go get your tickets now.


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