The Mid-Autumn season is back, and that means it’s time to sip tea, eat mooncakes, and get ready for the Esplanade’s annual Moonfest. Now in its 17th edition, the festival will feature a series of programme celebrating traditional Chinese art forms ranging from xiqu to music, dance to puppetry and more. With the pandemic in place, the festival will be hybrid in nature and take place from 17th September to 3rd October 2021, with both on-site live performances and digital offerings.
“It’s been a roller-coaster ride over the past year and just as we salute the hard work and courage of frontline essential workers who continue to serve the nation, we want to champion that sense of devotion and give hope to people through what we do as the national performing arts centre of Singapore too,” says Moonfest producer Desmond Chew. “Thus at this year’s Moonfest, we have specially curated a series of digital performances that focuses on heroic figures who embodied the “courageous” spirit.”
As Desmond says, heroes of Chinese legend take centrestage, with the Shanghai Pingtan Troupe, Taiwan Puppet Theater and Foshan Cantonese Opera Troupe presenting the stories of Hua Mulan, Sun Wukong and General Yang Zaixing in their digital performances. All three will be available to watch for free online.
In particular, Shanghai Pingtan Troupe’s presence represents the first time Moonfest is featuring pingtan—a 400-year-old genre of musical storytelling performed in the Suzhou dialect. In this particular piece they’re presenting, The New Mulan Ballad takes on the legend of Mulan – a filial daughter who disguised herself as a man to go to war, and uses a version revised and composed by then Shanghai Pingtan Troupe leader Wu Zongxi in the 1950s. Back then, the new adaptation sung by Xu Lixian, founder of the distinctive li diao style, overturned traditions with its powerful narration and took the music scene by storm. The ballad has since become a new pingtan classic that celebrates Mulan’s bravery and filial piety.
Besides these programmes online, audience members coming down to the Esplanade itself can catch the Chinese Opera Institute showcase winners of the Singapore Chinese Opera Orchid Awards to present classical Chinese opera pieces, including excerpts from Farewell My Concubine (Peking Opera), Cantonese Opera The Moon Pavilion (Cantonese Opera) and Voyage (Yue Opera) in An Ode To Chinese Opera. Elements Dance Arts will present a double bill of dance performances at the Outdoor Theatre in In passage; In time, while Paper Monkey Theatre will present a puppetry performance of The Tiger Hero at the Esplanade Concourse. Music lovers can also appreciate the sounds of local east-west fusion band SZINC, who will be joined by percussionist Mohamed Noor to present Amalgamation, the band’s latest project comprising three works representing a different emotion and story.
Apart from performances, Moonfest will also feature workshops for parent-child bonding as well as those targeted at adults who are keen to learn more about traditional Chinese arts and culture, from paper lantern making workshops to how to create a shadow play box. This September, whether you’re at the Esplanade or cosying up at home, spend some family time with the Esplanade’s Moonfest 2021.
Moonfest 2021 takes place from 17th September to 3rd October 2021. Full lineup available here