The 44th Hong Kong Arts Festival in 2016
Advance Bookings start 8 October 2015

(Hong Kong, 6 October 2015) Today the Hong Kong Arts Festival (HKAF) announces details of the forthcoming 44th HKAF. Featuring over 1,400 outstanding international and local artists in 118 performances, the Festival will run from 19 February to 20 March 2016. [Please refer to the statistics factsheet for details]

“Once again, we have a truly fabulous line up for the 44th HKAF, including classics that celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, premieres and commissions that are in and of today, as well as series of exciting activities that complement our experiences beyond great performances.

I believe the Government, our sponsors, donors, partners and stakeholders understand and appreciate the value of the work of the Festival: not only as a highlight of the year for arts lovers, but also as one of the most important cultural assets of Hong Kong.

Over the years I have had the good fortune to serve the artistic and cultural stakeholders of our community. I will be eternally grateful for their support for it has been a joy and privilege. My best wishes for the Hong Kong Arts Festival to go from strength to strength.” said The Hon Ronald Arculli, Chairman of the Hong Kong Arts Festival.

“There are great operas, heavenly music, powerful theatre and fabulous dances, as well as several genre-defying productions. And at a time when so much is happening both in Hong Kong and in the world around us, many invite us to think about what comes after. Consequences of personal choice, artistic heritage and renewal, as well as the Requiems that we are presenting this year offer food for thought in “what comes after”. Whatever your choice in this wonderful array, whether it is spectacle, inspiration, adventure, or a concert to make you want to get up and dance, I look forward to seeing you at many HKAF performances and events,” said Ms Tisa Ho, Executive Director of the Hong Kong Arts Festival.

The budget of the 44th HKAF is estimated at about HK$110 million. A total of HK$33.18 million comes from government funding. Box office income is expected to reach over HK$40 million, while fundraising income is expected to exceed HK$35 million. 

OPERA
In this year’s HKAF, both Western and Chinese operas revolve around the idea of “what comes after”.

Consequences of personal choice drive the narrative in Teatro Regio Torino’s sumptuous staging of Verdi’s epic Simon Boccanegra. With its timeless message of reconciliation and a spellbinding score, the spectacular production comes to Hong Kong with an international cast and chorus, led by Verdi specialist Roberto Abbado. 

Artistic heritage and renewal are abiding concerns for the HKAF. This year traditional Chinese Opera masters, Wang Rongrong and Yau Sing-po, both artists of impeccable pedigree, offer food for thought in “what comes after” in their Peking Opera and Cantonese Opera. In a special tribute to Zhang Junqiu, Wang leads the Jingju Theater Company of Beijing in Romance of the West Chamber and Top Scholar as Matchmaker. Wang also leads in the model opera Underground Liaison, while her leading student Wang Xi performs in Riverside Pavilion.

Cantonese opera Master Yau Sing-po and a star-studded cast are to be featured in the production Li Bai: The Immortal Poet. Applying his vocal mastery and physical dexterity to conjure up the inspired drunkenness for which Li Bai is famous for, Yau reprises the role he first created 20 years ago.

MUSIC
The human voice is another important dimension of the 44th HKAF and some of the greatest choral masterpieces may prompt additional thoughts as to what comes after.

Named Musical America’s 2015 “Conductor of the Year”, Gianandrea Noseda leads his Italian forces from the Teatro Regio Torino in two concerts, performing such works as Verdi’s Messa da Requiem and Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky cantata. Leading the Orchestra and Chorus Teatro Regio Torino in the Verdi and Wagner Opera Gala concert, guest conductor Roberto Abbado returns after his acclaimed La traviata at the HKAF in 2013.

Another choral highlight is the three-time Grammy Award-winning Rundfunkchor Berlin. Its human requiem concert featuring Brahms’ A German Requiem brings together outstanding soloists and the artistic imprint of Sasha Waltz & Guests dance company. Banishing the borders between performers and audience, the piece is brought to life in a uniquely imagined performance at Loke Yew Hall of the University of Hong Kong. Also from Germany, Thomanerchor Leipzig (St Thomas Choir Leipzig) partners with Gewandhausorchester Leipzig in Bach’s St Matthew Passion. Written when Bach was the Cantor for St Thomas Church, this performance offers an authentic experience hard to surpass.

Praised by Opera News as “the biggest international star the opera world has had since Pavarotti”, star soprano Anna Netrebko makes her long-awaited Asian concert debut with tenor Yusif Eyvazov.

Exploring the role of the Diva, Rufus Wainwright’s symphonic visual concert Prima Donna is another superstar event of the year.

An array of established international musicians also takes the stage this year. Winner of the coveted Léonie Sonning Music Prize Lars Ulrik Mortensen leads his Danish period instrument orchestra Concerto Copenhagen in a concert featuring Watermusic. Mortensen also performs a unique harpsichord solo recital where he plays works by composers who influenced the great J S Bach. Evian String Quartet Competition winner Debussy String Quartet devotes one of their two concerts to the French repertoire. Joined by two other musicians, their second concert Bach to Jazz gets jazzy with the classics. From Russia, Alexander Melnikov brings his signature Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues to Hong Kong. This is the first complete cycle of the monumental work for local audience. Korean violin prodigy Ji-young Lim became the first Korean to carry off the top violin award at the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Competition in 2015. Accompanied by young star pianist Dasol Kim, Lim’s debut concert in Hong Kong features works by Schubert, Brahms and Hubay.

On the home front, the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra continues with its tenth episode of Music about China. To tie in with the theme of Chinese Music without Bounds, their concert features some milestone works in Chinese orchestral music. The Intimacy of Creativity (IC) and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology present a five-season retrospective of dynamic and engaging chamber music compositions and music-making in a special performance joined by previous and new IC guest artists.

JAZZ / WORLD MUSIC
After 16 years of thrilling audiences around the world, Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club® embarks on its farewell tour with HKAF as their Asian stop. Featured in the 2013 Oscar-winning documentary Twenty Feet from Stardom about legendary backing singers, Grammy winner Lisa Fischer performs with her powerhouse band Grand Baton. Raising the roof at the HKAF in 2014, Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca returns with Malian singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara in a sensational concert exploring two great music cultures. For the second season, World Music Weekend sets off on an incredible musical journey, bringing three concerts that embrace the classical sounds of India and melodies from Greece and the Mediterranean world. From Romania, the energetic brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia brings the true spirit of gypsy music to Hong Kong.

THEATRE
Consequences of personal choice also matters in many of the theatrical productions.

Commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company brings to HKAF its new productions of the celebrated “History plays”. Staged by the RSC’s Artistic Director, Gregory Doran, and featuring a company led by Antony Sher and Alex Hassell, the three Henry’s plays (Henry IV, Part I; Henry IV, Part II & Henry V) come to Hong Kong following critically acclaimed seasons in Stratford and at London’s Barbican Theatre. Macbeth, another Shakespeare’s play, is to be staged by local director Tang Shu-wing. Co-commissioned by the HKAF and Shakespeare’s Globe, Tang’s dynamic interpretation inhabits a hallucinatory world of sound and shadow in a modern setting.

Enriched with specially commissioned live music, Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre inspires a new generation in its boldly re-imagined production co-produced by the famous Bristol Old Vic and National Theatre of Great Britain, under the direction of Sally Cookson. Hailed as “the theatrical event of the century, The Mahabharata is being revisited by the legendary Peter Brook and his Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord. Based on the same rich language and astonishing stories, Battlefield gives theatrical expression to mankind’s greatest dramas and deepest struggles.

The power of words links two hit shows from Belgium’s SKaGeN company, performed by Valentijn Dhaenens. In BigMouth, fragments of speeches by famous figures reveal the magic of oratory as an irresistible force of persuasion. In SmallWaR, Dhaenens tells the stories in the words of ordinary citizens and soldiers who suffered during the World War I. In a hymn of love, over 80 drummers, dancers, martial artists and singers from Taiwan’s U-Theatre and Germany’s Rundfunkchor Berlin perform in an intoxicating mix of ritual, instrumental, sounds and human voices in LOVER.

In addition to Macbeth, two remarkable new local theatre works are to be featured. A topical new play commissioned by the HKAF, Chinese Lesson looks at Hong Kong students and their responses to issues of the day. In this classroom drama, co-playwrights Tang Chi-kin and Chan Kwun-fee create a no holds barred portrayal of youth and their vision of our city. Aspiring to become urban dance warriors, the young and energetic cast from Jockey Club Local Creative Talents Series: Danz Up performs a spectacular dance off, under the leadership of Shing Mak (choreographer of the hit homegrown dance movie The Way We Dance), stage director Tang Wai-kit and playwright Matthew Cheng.

DANCE*
The world-renowned Mikhailovsky Ballet of St Petersburg from Russia performs Nacho Duato’s The Sleeping Beauty in this year’s HKAF Festival Finale. Created for and premiered by the same Company in 2011, Duato’s choreography told the famous fairy tale in his own way, preserving its incredibly romantic and magical spirit. The equally beautiful production Scent of Ink, by the National Dance Company of Korea, is exquisite poetry in motion, featuring lavish costumes, chic choreography and a subtle blend of traditional Sanjo and Jeonga music with Western percussion.

The traditional Bavarian folk dance “Schuhplatter” take center stage in Alessandro Sciarroni’s award-winning dance production FOLK-S, will you still love me tomorrow . Exploring the lure of flamenco, Aurélien Bory’s creation for Stéphanie Fuster tells a new flamenco story in the smash hit production What’s become of You .

The eighth edition of Asia Pacific Dance Platform brings together two new forces – Beijing dancer-choreographer Gu Jiani’s Right and Left and New Zealand dancer-choreographer Ross McCormack’s The Weight of Force – to celebrate Asian creativity on the dance stage. Celebrating its fifth edition, the Hong Kong Jockey Club Contemporary Dance Series continues to set the stage for dance creativity to flourish in Hong Kong, showing five new works in two programmes and also presenting six emerging choreographers in one special programme.

*The Mikhailovsky Ballet of St Petersburg will replace the Berlin State Ballet to perform The Sleeping Beauty. The Berlin State Ballet has decided to withdraw their performances at the 44th HKAF due to unforeseen circumstances within their company.

CIRCUS
The 44th HKAF opens with Compagnia Finzi Pasca’s La Verità, featuring multi-dimensional circus arts inspired by a masterpiece painted by Salvodor Dalí. In Opus, 14 sensational dancer-acrobats and the award-winning Debussy String Quartet celebrate the music of Shostakovich, performing around, on top, in between and in the midst of each other. This Circa production is especially suitable for families with young people age 8 or above. For children of younger age (6 or above), Circo Aereo and Thomas Monckton’s The Pianist is a hilarious solo contemporary circus performance, centered on a five-star concert that never starts. This sparkling comedy gem has performed to sold-out seasons in Canada, Finland, New Zealand and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

YOUNG FRIENDS
Growing by the year, HKAF’s Young Friends continues to provide an excellent platform for young people in Hong Kong to get involved in the arts. Apart from attending selected rehearsals and performances, Young Friends members can participate in meet-the-artist sessions, workshops and lecture demonstrations by local and international performers.  In addition, they are offered tailor-made Young Friends Specials, with customised educational appreciation guides to supplement additional information about the performances.

To develop members’ comprehensive understanding of the arts, Young Friends brings programme-based pre-show workshops led by local artists to secondary schools. As well as performance-related activities, Young Friends members can also participate in arts administration training workshops during the summer to gain insight into the cultural industry.

PLUS PROGRAMMES
Topping off the impressive list of live performances, Festival PLUS offers audiences an exciting range of activities that enhance their Festival experiences. The 2016 PLUS programme features a series of concerts and church tours exploring the history of the development of sacred music in Hong Kong. An Anna Netrebko Opera Film Series features five astonishing films with the diva in her signature roles. Skilled circus artists from Circa lead a unique fitness class for participants to train circus techniques. The First Troupe of the Jingju Theater Company of Beijing takes audience backstage to get a close-up view of the interesting art form. The Rundfunkchor Berlin presents a series of talks and discussion on its human requiem project. Details of the full PLUS programme, including masterclasses, workshops, backstage tours and more will be announced in December.

BOOKINGS and OTHER INFORMATION
The Programme & Booking Guide is now available at all URBTIX outlets. Advance Bookings for the 44th HKAF are accepted by fax, post, or on the Festival website (www.hk.artsfestival.org) from 12:00am on 8 October to 11:59pm on 2 December 2015. Audiences can enjoy up to 15% discount on their bookings during the Advance Booking period.

Counter Bookings start on 12 December. Patrons can book their tickets at URBTIX (online at www.urbtix.hk, by phone (852) 2111 5999 or at URBTIX outlets.)

ABOUT THE HONG KONG ARTS FESTIVAL (HKAF)
Launched in 1973, the Hong Kong Arts Festival is a major annual international celebration of the performing arts and one of the region’s premier cultural events. Held in February and March each year, HKAF presents over 1400 artists in more than a dozen venues throughout Hong Kong, supplemented by about 250 Festival PLUS and arts education events.

HKAF presents the world’s top artists as well as stars of tomorrow and gives equal importance to great traditions and contemporary creations. HKAF also commissions and produces work in theatre, chamber opera and contemporary dance; some HKAF productions have toured to other Asian cities after their Hong Kong premiere.

HKAF is a non-profit organization. The estimated budget for the 2016 Festival is around HK$110 million. About 30% of its annual income comes from government funding, about 37% from the box office, and close to 32% from sponsorships and donations from corporations, individuals, and charitable foundations.

For more information, please visit: www.hk.artsfestival.org.
 
MEDIA ENQUIRIES
For further enquiries, please contact Ms Katy Cheng, Marketing Director, on 2824 3555 or:

Ms Wendy Chung (Opera and Music)
Direct Line: 2828 4931, Email: wendy.chung@hkaf.org

Mr Nick Chan (Jazz/World Music, Theatre)
Direct Line: 2828 4932, Email: nick.chan@hkaf.org

Ms Alexia Chow (Chinese Opera, Theatre and Dance)
Direct Line: 2828 4933, Email: alexia.chow@hkaf.org

Press releases and photos of the 44th HKAF can be downloaded from: http://www.hk.artsfestival.org/press-room/