Speech by Grace Lang, Programme Director of Hong Kong Arts Festival at the 40th HKAF Kick-off Press Conference on 3 October 2011

October 03rd, 2011

Fables and folklores have unveiled mysteries of the past since the dawn of civilisation. The spiritual and human worlds are apart but often unite, creating tension, and moving generations forward. The Arts unveil, explore, explain and investigate the world we live in. The Hong Kong Arts Festival plays a small part in this, and we will continue to do so. Mythologies provide magic and wonder.

Gods of nature from 2,000 years ago inspired Gao Xingjian’s spirited and fun-filled total theatre Of Mountains and Seas; an Athenian fairyland gave rise to the setting of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of the most popular works for the stage to date; and the Greek legend of Orpheus formed the central story of one of the most influential musical dramas by Monteverdi, composed at the transition point between the Renaissance era and the Baroque.

The Festival takes you to explore world cultures through music: we have ancient religious Nuo opera, “the living fossil of opera” still in practice in Guizhou and some other rural areas; intimate Gion ballads from Kyoto; nomadic Tuareg tunes of the Sahara Desert; Creole chants and old blues from New Orleans; powerful, intensely passionate church music written by Handel in 17th and 18th century Italy and England; primitive Shamanistic choral tunes composed by Tormis; and powerful orchestral sounds by Austria’s Bruckner, Germany’s Mahler and contemporary living Asian composers.

A portrayal of the education of mankind, Peter Brook’s take on Mozart’s Masonic opera The Magic Flute traverses superstition and rationalism, Brian Friel’s Faith Healer bridges belief and human nature, and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s TeZukA blends the imaginative world of manga, science fiction and contemporary reality. The Festival takes you to a world of magical power beyond explanation.

Into the human world, the Arts unveil the sweetness and bitterness of humanity. John Neumeier’s childlike wonder in Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler contrasts his reflection of life’s harshness in A Streetcar Named Desire. Love and playfulness are portrayed in Cosi Fan Tutte, The Importance of Being Earnest and June Lovers; and despair and revenge in 4.48 Psychosis and The Bee.

Finally the Festival takes you further into an investigation of the illusions of life: man and machine in Sans Objet, man and animal in The Wild Boar and the question of whether we live in a real world in Show Flat. However, it’s in the traditional Chinese Operas we find the reigning themes of compassionate love and righteousness triumphing over hatred and wickedness, depicting the most treasured values in life.

Perhaps we should take the attitude of Balanchine’s Who Cares . Relax, enjoy ourselves and let the Festival unveil its best creations to us.

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