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A Major Highlight of the 50th Hong Kong Arts Festival in 2022
The Special Project Laila, an Immersive and Interactive Opera Experience
A Co-Production of the HKAF and the Finnish National Opera and Ballet

(Hong Kong, 13 May 2021)

The Hong Kong Arts Festival (HKAF) is pleased to announce the special project Laila, an immersive and interactive opera experience, as one of the major highlights of the 50th HKAF in 2022. A co-production of the HKAF and the Finnish National Opera and Ballet (FNOB), Laila will receive its international premiere in Hong Kong, the first time it will be performed outside Finland. Scheduled to take place at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum from 25 February 2022, the experience will be free of charge to the public upon registration, with further details to be announced at a later date.

Together with a series of outreach and education events, the special project Laila is solely sponsored by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust.

Laila at the 50th HKAF continues the Festival’s commitment to presenting innovative productions from around the world; this production, made possible by a meeting of performing arts with cutting-edge technology, conjures up untold possibilities, and will be sure to delight Hong Kong audiences, particularly younger ones. The special project Laila, along with complementary outreach and education activities fronted by the HKAF’s Laila Outreach Ambassador Mr Zeno Koo––including the “Arts Tech Creative Competition”, a teacher seminar, school tours, workshops, introductory talks and guided tours––will further advance Arts Tech initiatives in Hong Kong, as part of the 50th HKAF in 2022.


Laila: A Ground-Breaking Opera that Pushes Beyond Conventions

Created for the FNOB by world-renowned composer and conductor Maestro Esa-Pekka Salonen, dramaturg Ms Paula Vesala, sound designer Mr Tuomas Norvio and arts and technology specialists the Ekho Collective, Laila incorporates Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), video-projection mapping, 360 spatial sound and real time sensors to offer a unique, immersive and interactive arts experience in the dome-shaped performance space. 

Laila was born out of Opera Beyond, the FNOB’s international open call which started in 2019 for concepts of an immersive, interactive art piece. The work was selected as the winning proposal out of 195 applications, and its creative team have brought the concept to fruition in collaboration with the FNOB.

Making a breakthrough by pushing beyond the traditional conventions of opera, Laila invites visitors into an exploration with AI––a self-learning code that mirrors its creator’s failures and successes––to become co-creators in shaping a new reality, and to confront our hopes, fears and anxieties related to technology and the unknown. The experience is accessible to arts lovers, users of new technologies, young people and families alike.

Laila was recently awarded the prestigious FEDORA Digital Prize for 2020. Europe’s largest opera and ballet competition, the FEDORA Prizes foster and reward new forms of artistic expression and access to opera and ballet through digital innovation. On selecting Laila as its winner, the judges recognised that “the work makes bold use of new technologies while extending reality into a mesmerising and collaborative experience”.

This special project reaffirms the HKAF’s dedication to supporting projects that push the boundaries of different art forms to achieve new breakthroughs in artistry and to create memorable and meaningful experiences for all.


Virtual Press Conference Announcing Special Project Laila

Reflecting the unique and interactive nature of Laila, a virtual press conference in 360-degree video format was held today (13 May 2021) to announce this special project, with contributions from a number of guest speakers:

Mr Victor Cha, Chairman of the HKAF, said of Laila: “This is a project the Festival team has been planning since 2019, and I would like to thank The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, our long-term partner for joining our 50th anniversary celebrations by supporting this project as the Sole Sponsor. I am pleased to introduce Laila, a unique, interactive experience which brings together opera, AI and VR, merging opera with cutting-edge technology. This is an exciting example of what can be achieved in Arts Tech, which is a focus of development in Hong Kong today.”

“We are delighted to be sponsoring the ground-breaking interactive opera Laila, a highlighted programme of the 50th edition of the HKAF,” said Mr Leong Cheung, Executive Director, Charities and Community of The Hong Kong Jockey Club. “We believe that the integration of Arts and Technology would bring positive impact to the community particularly to a new generation and we look forward to promoting more such projects locally.”

Ms Tisa Ho, Executive Director of the HKAF, added: “Over the years, the Festival has presented both Chinese and Western Opera in classic as well as in adventurous and creative productions, but we are truly breaking new ground with Laila, making it a perfect project for our milestone 50th Hong Kong Arts Festival as we continue to move forward into the next 50 years.”

Maestro Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor, composer and co-creator of Laila, described how Laila is a unique experience for each visitor: “When the visitor enters the dome, he or she, actually with their own actions, influences the experience. So in a way, everyone gets a tailor-made experience for themselves.”

Ms Lilli Paasikivi, Artistic Director of Opera at the FNOB, referenced Maestro Salonen’s strong desire to revolutionise classical music for contributing to the development of Laila. “Esa-Pekka expressed strongly his interest in the use of new technologies in classical music. Laila has been a great opportunity for us to launch an expedition to integrate technology in our performances, creating new tools while educating ourselves in this field.”


Education and Outreach: Outreach Ambassador Mr Zeno Koo to Join Forces with the HKAF in Promoting Arts Tech Among Hong Kong Youths

Following the success of Opera Beyond in promoting Arts Tech through the creative open call, the Festival has curated a series of outreach and education events commencing in May 2021, leading up to the 50th HKAF in 2022. Fronted by the popular young local artist Mr Zeno Koo, Outreach Ambassador for the HKAF’s special project Laila, these initiatives aim to promote wider awareness of Arts Tech, as well as cultivating ideas among diverse local audiences and the younger generation. In the year-long series of outreach and education activities, Mr Koo will join and experience the learning process alongside the students.

The first Laila outreach and education activity to be rolled out is the “Arts Tech Creative Competition”, for which an open call for proposals from students will start on 20 May 2021. Shortlisted proposals will be showcased to the public during the 50th HKAF in 2022. There will also be performances at secondary schools in an immersive and interactive setting, which will be organised in the new academic year, starting from September 2021. A unique guided tour will be curated, enabling students to experience Laila and the complementary exhibition in February and March 2022.

A teacher seminar, to be held before this summer, will provide a platform for exchanges of ideas between teachers and arts educators on topics including STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) education, cross-disciplinary collaborations, creative teaching strategies and Arts Tech.

Throughout the year, the HKAF will also present workshops in secondary schools and introductory talks for the public.

Please stay tuned for more information on Laila’s education and outreach activities, which will be announced at a later date.


Acknowledgements

The Hong Kong Arts Festival would like to thank The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust for being the Sole Sponsor of Laila and the complementary outreach and education activities. The Festival would also like to thank Shaw Studios for their support as Press Conference Venue Partner.


About the Hong Kong Arts Festival

Launched in 1973, the Hong Kong Arts Festival is a major international arts festival committed to enriching the cultural life of the city. In February and March every year, the Festival presents leading local and international artists in all genres of the performing arts, placing equal importance on great traditions and contemporary creations. The Festival also commissions and produces work in Cantonese opera, theatre, music, chamber opera and contemporary dance by Hong Kong’s own creative talent and emerging artists; many of these works have had successful subsequent runs in Hong Kong and overseas. The Festival also presents over 250 “PLUS” and educational activities that offer diverse arts experiences to the community as well as tertiary, secondary and primary school students. In addition, through the “No Limits” project co-presented with The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, the Festival strives to create an inclusive space for people with different abilities to share the joy of the arts together.

HKAF is a non-profit organisation. Its principal income sources are: recurrent funding from the government, box office revenues, and sponsorship and donations made by corporations, individuals and charitable foundations which form a significant portion of total income and also enable HKAF to receive support from the Government’s matching scheme that matches income generated through private sector sponsorship and donations.


Programme Information and Media Enquiries

For further enquiries, please contact:

Ms Alexia Chow, HKAF, alexia.chow@hkaf.org, +852 2828 4933

Ms Victoria Kung, Sutton (PR agency for the 50th HKAF), victoriak@suttoncomms.com, +852 9668 1092