Arts Hong Kong Preview Theatre travel

Arts of Hong Kong 2021: Hong Kong Arts Festival returns for 49th edition this year

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HONG KONG – After seeing most of its 2020 edition unable to proceed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hong Kong Arts Festival (HKAF) is back, stronger than ever before, as they confidently announce the 49th edition of the prestigious arts festival, taking place from February to April.

“On a deeper level though, Separate Together also describes one of the most magical and meaningful aspects of great art

Ms Tisa Ho, Executive Director of the HKAF, highlights the Festival’s tagline this year – Separate Together. “On a literal level, this acknowledges what we have all been going through in this period of isolation,” says Ms Ho. “Something that is also referenced in a number of productions: from The Plague to Noah’s Ark, and to the amazing body of work by Leoš Janáček. Of course, it also refers to all the different artists brought together in this Festival.”

“On a deeper level though, Separate Together also describes one of the most magical and meaningful aspects of great art—how each of us responds to a performance in our own unique way, bringing to that response our personal histories, education, values and concerns. And yet, when it all comes together in a great performance, the art can bring us all together, to be moved, excited and uplifted, all in the same moment, across time and space, and cultures, highlighting our shared humanity. I hope very much that we will experience this together in the coming Festival, whether in person or virtually, and we will do all we can to make this happen, if the conditions allow for it.”

The festival will comprise a mix of in-venue performances and online programmes, with some of the latter featuring pre-recorded performances available on demand, besides live stream performances either performed in-venue where circumstances permit, or broadcast online from various locations. The festival opens with the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra’s Music about Chinawhich presents a programme comprising unusual works for a Chinese Orchestra, including a work featuring American blues, and the use of unconventional musical instruments.

Cantonese opera Noah’s Ark is set to retell the Biblical story of the Great Flood with a modern twist, revived and produced by the HKAF, and featuring the quintessential elements of Cantonese opera, starring masters such as Sun Kim-long and Tang Mi-ling, and featuring spectacular set and costume design inspired by Chinese paper-cutting and Tao Fong Shan gospel porcelain.

New musical Yat-sen will be receiving a special preview prior to its full production in 2022, as the show charts the life and times of Sun Yat-sen, the Father of Modern China. Composed by Peter Kam, with lyrics by Chris Shum, directed by Eugene Ma and with a script by screenwriter Sunny Chan, Yat-sen promises to be an epic experience, even with a bare stage, and leave you hankering for the full version next year.

Meanwhile, the Jockey Club Local Creative Talents Series presents Journey to the West Rewind / Women Like Us, a double-bill subverting the traditional notions of happily-ever-after, with a reinvestigation of the Cantonese opera art form and the eponymous literary classic Journey to the West, while Cantonese chamber opera Women Like Us is a singing tribute to the literary grand dame Xi Xi and the two protagonists of her beloved short stories A Girl Like Me and The Cold.

Look out for piano recitals by Charles Richard-Hamelin, who will perform the complete cycle of Chopin’s 24 Preludes and concerto performances with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, as well as young Liszt master Niu Niu, who will present ‘Virtuosic Romantics’, along with a Chopin concert with the Romer String Quartet.

If you prefer choral music, then the Yip’s Children’s Choir will present the world premiere of Italian composer Pierangelo Valtinoni’s  Alice in Wonderland. Renowned for his children’s operas, Alice in Wonderland combines Lewis Carroll’s classic tale with magical decor by award-winning designer Kelly Lo, and local director Yankov Wong’s witty and imaginative direction with projection mapping to conjure up a magical world, in this experience ideal for everyone from age 3 to 100.

On the theatre front, Neil Bartlett’s haunting play The Plague gets a timely revival in these pandemic times, as a deadly plague catches a frenetic city unguarded, and the death toll is on the rise day by day, and the people forced to examine their existence in their responses. Inspired by Albert Camus’ novel of the same name, The Plague will receive both a Cantonese adaptation and a real-time virtual performance in English, offering two significantly different renditions of the same play, the former directed by Hong Kong artist Chan Tai-yin, and the latter by Beijing avant-garde theatre-maker Wang Chong from Beijing, played by six actors in six continents.

Illusionist Scott Silven takes audiences on The Journey, back to his home in Scotland, and immerses you with his ability to showcase transformative power of place, in an unforgettable interactive live online production, featuring storytelling, incredible illusions and feats of imagination.

The Chop’s Pathetic Fallacy sees theatre artist Anita Rochon setting herself the challenge of making a live touring piece that puts no performer on tour in order to reduce “her” carbon footprint. Using a temperamental broadcast green screen, Pathetic Fallacy tackles a changing relationship to weather, and tackles climate change head on.

Other highlights include Moscow’s legendary dance company the Igor Moiseyev Ballet; the tenth anniversary of the Hong Kong Jockey Club Contemporary Dance Series featuring a series of provocative new works and revamped audience favourites; Matthew Bourne’s award-winning stage production The Red Shoes; The National Theatre Brno’s operas Jenůfa and The Cunning Little Vixen; the song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared, and three concerts delivered by Jan Bartoš, the Arnold Schoenberg Choir and the Pavel Haas Quartet.

In this exceptional year, PLUS continues to bring audiences’ experiences beyond the stage to “More than Great Performances”. Highlights of 2021 include: Into the Czech Lands, a series of Czech music and an exhibition exploring the historical environment that produced the music of Dvořák, Janáček, Smetana and Martinů; documentary shorts Telling Images of Xiqu on Porcelain; special events in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Hong Kong Jockey Club Contemporary Dance Series; and a series of PLUS films that trace the early development and career milestones of celebrated violinist Hilary Hahn, and dance-makers: Jiří Kylián and Sergei Polunin. In addition to the above events, there are behind-the-scenes videos, artist dialogues, pre- and post-performance talks, to enhance engagement between artists and audiences.

Tisa Ho also highlights the new Digital Arts Platform set to launch its first phase in February, while young people arts education scheme No Limits is now in its third edition to further promote inclusiveness and accessibility to the arts, particularly for students and young people. Young Friends of the Hong Kong Arts Festival, which has reached over 782,000 students since inception, will continue to “LEARN, EXPLORE, CREATE” with Young Friends, and continues to offer Young Friends activities are offered both in person and via online platforms, to allow flexibility and meet the diverse needs of different schools and students.

We’re immensely grateful to all who stand by the Hong Kong Arts Festival and continue to support our work.”

“In its 49th edition, the Hong Kong Arts Festival will continue to present outstanding performances for Hong Kong,” says Mr Victor Cha, Chairman of the HKAF. “Local talents, rising stars and world-class international artists will come together to provide an array of performances. The Festival includes time-honoured classics, world premieres and specially commissioned works. We are most grateful to our artists for their resourcefulness and understanding in helping us to adapt to exceptional circumstances this year. We truly value our partnership with each and every one of them.”

“On behalf of the Festival team, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to all those who have contributed to making it possible. We’re very fortunate to have the continued support of our loyal donors and sponsors. In particular, the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust has been steadfast in its partnership and support. I would also like to thank the Hong Kong Government for its long-term funding. We’re immensely grateful to all who stand by the Hong Kong Arts Festival and continue to support our work.”

The 49th Hong Kong Arts Festival runs from 27th February to 4th April 2021. Tickets and full programme lineup available here

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