All the city's a stage as festival raises curtain

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 February, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 February, 2004, 12:00am

With stilt dancing, puppets and the flick of a giant switch, the 32nd Hong Kong Arts Festival was officially kicked off last night at the Cultural Centre.

A special opening ceremony inside the Culture Centre reached its climax as Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, movie mogul Sir Run-Run Shaw, Hong Kong Jockey Club chairman Ronald Arculli and Jutta Aulich from sponsor Mercedes-Benz gathered to formally turn on the lights for the event.

For the first time, an extravaganza of free shows was held outside the centre on the promenade.

The crowd was dazzled by a trio of Australian performance groups - Strange Fruit, Stalker Theatre Company and Snuff Puppets - which included stilt dancing and four-metre-high puppets.

Inside, a diverse audience gathered for the opening showing of The Merry Widow performed by the Komische Oper Berlin.

This year's Arts Festival runs from February 3 to March 7, with performers as diverse as vocal stylist Bobby McFerrin and the London Symphony Orchestra.