The 40th Hong Kong Arts Festival 2012

October 03rd, 2011

Today the Hong Kong Arts Festival (HKAF) announced details of the forthcoming 40th HKAF 2012, to be staged in 17 different venues with the main part held over 45 days — from 28 January to 8 March — with additional performances in September 2011 and April 2012. There are 166 performances in total featuring 38 ensembles or solo artists from overseas and 16 from Hong Kong.

"Early audiences of the Festival would be hard pressed to imagine the prestigious orchestras and glittering world stars gracing the stages of the Festival today. They would be awed by the richness and variety of programmes and venues available in today’s festival. Indeed, the Hong Kong Arts Festival has become a leading cultural event for the whole region and attracts keen interest and anticipation from both visitors and locals alike.”
(Mr Charles Lee, Chairman of Hong Kong Arts Festival Society Ltd.)

"The Festival has become more accessible to audiences in the mainland. We have extended our ticketing services to include a new ‘Cash-on-Delivery’ service facilitated by Cityline. This is a new initiative. It takes into account the increasing ease of access and travel to Hong Kong especially from Southern China, and helps lay the ground for more intensive future development.”
(Ms Tisa Ho, Executive Director of HKAF)

The budget for the 40th HKAF is estimated to be $110 million, with a subvention of $33.18 million from the Government through the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and a donation of about $17.46 million from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust to support three pillar programmes, fund tickets for two student matinees, co-present the World of WearableArt and sponsor a Contemporary Dance Series. Projected revenues are estimated at $20 million in sponsorships and donations, and $40 million in ticket sales.


In a category all of its own, the World of WearableArt, or WOW, makes its international debut in Hong Kong. An extravaganza of art, couture, and theatre with dance, music and lights, it really must be seen to be believed. Top designers from all around the world send in their wearable artwork to this once a year show that is hosted in New Zealand and which is now, finally, going on the road. It is a jaw-dropping experience for all the family and the touring show features the best of the best creations from past productions. Hong Kong audiences are lucky to be the first to see it.


The Bavarian State Opera presents Mozart’s comic opera Cosi Fan Tutte, the playful tale set to a heavenly score is perfectly realised by one of the world’s leading opera houses. This year’s Cantonese Opera showing celebrates the 1950s, considered by many to be the golden age of the genre, with Searching the Academy, based on a true story from the Qing dynasty, and a compilation piece presented by veterans and upcoming stars from Hong Kong. From further north, to celebrate the 111th birthday of Ma Lianliang, master of the laosheng (bearded) role in Beijing Opera, the Mei Lanfang Peking Opera Troupe and successors of Ma will give three performances of his best works.


This celebratory Festival marking forty years of great musical performances, has the very best international and local musicians. There are two incomparable orchestras. Widely considered as the best in the world, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, under the baton of Myung-whun Chung, presents work by Bartok, Weber and Mendelssohn. Closing the Festival the inimitable Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, under Daniel Harding, performs Bruckner, Mahler, Brahms and Schubert.

Performing Finnish choral music and a selection of children’s songs, Dominante presents two concerts, with a precision that is world renowned. Two all Handel performances are given by The Sixteen, with Harry Christophers, an internationally acclaimed choir and period-instrument orchestra. Fans of Monteverdi can rejoice as L’Arpeggiata play an evening of his, and his contemporaries’, finest works.

One of the world’s most electrifying dramatic sopranos Karita Mattila enchants audiences with an evening of Berg, Brahms, Debussy and R Strauss. Korean virtuoso Kun Woo Paik plays the entire Ravel piano cycle, an extremely challenging feat, and a rare opportunity for Hong Kong audiences. Nigel Kennedy, unorthodox and massively talented, brings together classical and jazz, with performances of Fats Waller and Bach.

There are some jazz greats at the Festival. All the way from his home town of New Orleans, Dr John performs with The Lower 911 in his voodoo charged distinctive style. Charlie Haden, perhaps the greatest jazz bassist of our times, plays some laid back jazz tunes with his band, Charlie Haden Quartet West. World music fans have something to look forward to. A collection of the best Chinese Folk singers are coming to the Festival, introducing audiences to a musical movement that is taking the Mainland by storm with its melodic songs and rebellious lyrics. From the Sahara, Tinariwen makes its Hong Kong debut, a desert guitar rock band whose fans include Carlos Santana and Robert Plant.

Two musical series take place this Festival. The Credit Suisse Emerging Artist Series with a stunning cello recital from Danjulo Ishizaka, a passionate piano recital of Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier by Martin Stadtfeld and two evenings of enchantment from the extraordinary Pavel Haas Quartet. The ExxonMobil Vision series sees twins Chau Lok-ping and Chau Lok-ting give a duo piano recital and Louis Siu and Friends present an evening of percussion music with Siu’s timpani taking centre stage. Furthermore, we have adventurous and groundbreaking programmes by Hong Kong Sinfonietta and Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra.


A theatrical performance persuades its audience to enter a reality of the imagination. This power to conjure and persuade, which lies at the heart of the creative impulse, informs many productions at this year’s festival.

Following on from the triumphant run of Richard III with Kevin Spacey there are some captivating international and local productions. The always fascinating Peter Brook has taken Mozart’s The Magic Flute and produced a thoughtful and charming work he calls A Magic Flute. The extraordinary play Faith Healer by Irish playwright Brian Friel is presented by Bristol Old Vic, the oldest theatre in the UK, which played in the first HKAF. Also returning to the Festival this year is Titus Andronicus (2012), one of the April productions, which director Tang Shu-wing promises to be an even more powerful production compared to its first outing in the 2008 HKAF.

Stunning physical theatre is provided by France’s enfant terrible, Aurelien Bory, as two performers intertwine and “dance” with a huge industrial robot arm in his latest work Sans Objet. Ancient tales are retold at the Festival, The Classics of Mountains and Seas is one of the oldest in the world, written over 2,200 years ago. Lin Zhaohua directs Nobel Laureate Gao Xingjian’s script which is based on the book and is full of supernatural stories and myths.

British playwright Sarah Kane’s compelling tale of depression 4.48 Psychosis is presented by TR Warszawa and directed by Grzegorz Jarzyna. For those who enjoy humorous theatre Hideki Noda’s dark black comedy The Bee uses satire to look at how revenge and tit-for-tat behaviour can lead to escalating violence. For the more light hearted, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is presented by London’s new theatre, the Rose Theatre Kingston.

Local theatre plays a big role in the Festival. Poon Wai-sum’s Show Flat tackles one of the hottest topics of the day — the property market. Playwright Chong Mui-ngam and director Olivia Yan present The Wild Boar, an absorbing tale that explores how people and wild animals are treated when they enter cities from the countryside. Additionally, in April, and by popular demand, Wong Wing-sze’s penetrating examination of marriage break-ups, The Truth about Lying, is again showing with Alice Lau and Wong Wing-sze in starring roles. Upcoming local talent is again nurtured this year, and as part of the Festival’s New Stage Series, young playwright Santayana Li under the mentorship of established actor/director Lee Chun-chow presents Journey to Home. The Series also brings Angel Lam’s latest musical, June Lovers, which tells a lyrical love story through moving coloratura songs with a twist.


Opening the Festival, The Hamburg Ballet performs two of John Neumeier’s signature pieces: Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler and A Streetcar Named Desire, promising a visual and musical treat with scores from Mahler, Prokofiev and Schnittke. The Monte-Carlo Ballet, under choreographer/director Jean-Christophe Maillot, delivers a sumptuous and comic A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Le Songe, which incorporates brilliantly inventive props and raucous and immodest choreography. And Lyon Opera Ballet, one of France’s national treasures, presents work from Millepied and Balanchine: This Part in Darkness, Sarabande and Who Cares .

There is unique dance theatre from Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui who presents the evolution of Osamu Tezuka’s most famous manga creations, including Astro Boy and Buddha, through dancing, video, martial arts and calligraphy. The Geisha of Gion presents an entertainment usually shrouded in privacy.

The Festival has two dance series this year. The Hong Kong Jockey Club Contemporary Dance Series which showcases five stunning dancers and their latest choreography, all of which is set to music composed by local artists. Plus, the Asia Pacific Dance Platform which gives artists from the Asiatic region the opportunity to perform their own work. This year we have upcoming talents from Japan, Taiwan and Indonesia.


Growing by the year, the Young Friends Scheme (YFS) continues to nurture the artistic temperament of the young people in Hong Kong. In its 20th anniversary the sheer variety of what is now on offer is mind blowing and more and more students are joining, keen to get in on the action. In addition to their usual activities, this year an Alumni is being created so old members can keep in touch.

A Young Friend has a whole new world of opportunities opened to them. In addition to attending selected rehearsals and performances free of charge, Young Friend can participate in workshops held by international performers; meet the artist sessions; school visits by local and international performers; and opportunities to interview stars of the stage, to name but a few.


It is not only our Young Friends that get to experience more than just the fabulous performances. Festival Plus activities also provide opportunities for audiences of any age to attend workshops and masterclasses, to listen to after show talks, and to see films about artists and their work.


The Programme & Booking Guide is available at all URBTIX outlets from 4 October.

Advance Bookings for the 40th HKAF will be accepted by post, fax or on the HKAF website ( from 4 October midnight. Audio and video clips giving a preview of selected programmes are available on the HKAF website. An updated version of the 2012 iPhone App is available from 4 October which also gives quick access to video and audio clips, as well as full programme details, photos, ticketing information and venue directions.

Audiences in the Guangdong Province will benefit from a new Cash On Delivery ticketing service, while patrons in other provinces in China who book through credit cards can choose to receive their tickets by courier. Counter Bookings will start on 3 December. Patrons can book their tickets at URBTIX (online at, by phone 852 2111 5999 or at URBTIX outlets.)


For further enquiries, please contact Ms Katy Cheng, Marketing Director, on 2824 3555 or:
Ms Alexia Chow (Theatre, Dance, Chinese Opera and Special Events) Direct Line: 2828 4933, Email:

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