Orchestra banks on a season of premieres

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 July, 2011, 12:00am


Despite an HK$18 million budget shortfall, the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra plans to push ahead with an ambitious and wide-reaching programme for its 35th season.

The orchestra is planning to put on 22 programmes, including 10 premieres, in the 2011-2012 season starting in September.

The group receives an annual government subvention of HK$53 million toward its HK$71 million budget and makes up the balance through sponsorship. But some sponsors withdrew support after Audit Commission criticism last year about waste and governance problems in the organisation.

'There are many things we want to do - new commissioned works, education outreach, and tours - but there has been zero increase in the government subsidy over the years, despite huge growth in our audiences,' chief executive Celina Chin said. 'We are still living under the shadow of that regrettable [audit] report. But we are trying to put that behind us.'

The orchestra is chasing new funding and looking ahead to the next season.

Artistic director Yan Huichang said: 'Our programmes will feature a dialogue between tradition and modernity, and that's what audiences will hear when we will kick off our new season in September with music from Guizhou .

'Sounds from a Musical Shangri-la will feature the raw original music of the minorities, which stunned me during a field trip there.'

The season will also feature local composers and soloists, including violinist Yao Jue and cellist Trey Lee, who will premiere works based on the classic The Dream of the Red Chamber.

But the most important debut is Dr Sun Yat-sen, the first Western-style opera by a Chinese orchestra.

'We have been discussing this project for three years, and this will be my first performance of an opera sung in Putonghua after 25 years of singing Western operas,' tenor Warren Mok said.

Another major centenary production is named after one of Dr Sun's famous dictums, The World is for All, and will feature new compositions.

Musicians from Jiangsu, Taipei and Hong Kong will team up for a four-city tour, beginning in Beijing in August, and heading to Nanjing and Taipei, before a finale in Hong Kong in October.

According to Chin, the ensemble will continue to play its cultural ambassador role, with tours to the mainland and possibly Europe in the new season.

'We will be touring Sichuan even before the season starts and will perform both at Chengdu's concert hall as well as the 2008 earthquake site,' she said.

Chin also said that tours to Britain, Belgium and Germany in 2012 were under discussion.

The new season will see the departure of some star players, including suona principal Guo Yazhi, who leaves after 10 years on the job.

'Guo and five other players are leaving for personal reasons,' Yan said.

'Our competitiveness will diminish and we will not be able to attract talented players if fresh sources of income do not emerge.'