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Macao International Music Festival 2017 cements the city’s status as a centre of entertainment and culture

The 31st edition of this major music festival is the centrepiece of a thriving, diverse musical culture in Macau

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 September, 2017, 9:30am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 September, 2017, 9:43am

Macau’s status as a musical centre has risen rapidly in recent years, with a growing roster of events attracting major world talent.

A central pillar of this success has been the Macao International Music Festival. This year, the city welcomes the festival’s 31st edition, which comprises a month of concerts, showcasing a cast of impressive global and regional performers.

Opening the festival is a much-anticipated production of Andrea Chénier, the much loved four-act opera by Umberto Giordano. Performed by Italy’s Teatro Regio Torino, it is set to be a high point of the region’s cultural year.

Another stand-out event is one-act opera A Fragrant Dream. The creation of writer Lawrence Lei, composer Liu Chenchen and poet Un Sio San, it is Macau’s first chamber opera, originally written in celebration of the 30th Macao International Music Festival.

Special guests at the festival this year include the Vienna Philharmonic, widely considered one of the world’s greatest orchestras. They will perform not one but two concerts: The Golden Peak on October 29, comprising works by Strauss and Beethoven, and on October 30 Timeless Beethoven, featuring the works of Beethoven and Wagner.

One highlight of the festival is a performance by Berlin-based Japanese composer and vibraphonist el fog (Masayoshi Fujita), considered one of the most exciting contemporary musicians working today. His sonic creations are influenced by jazz and electronic music, but the results are entirely his own.

It’s not just international acts that benefit from this high profile stage: the theme of this year’s festival is “Rising Stars”, and the festival’s Bravo Macao! series continues to promote Macau’s young musicians. Up-and-coming talents featuring in the series include violinist Lo Cheng Io, harpist Leong Cheok Wun and cellist Ho Chun.

Yet, for all the attention that the festival brings, there’s much more to Macau’s musical life, year-round. The Macao Orchestra, founded in 1983 as the city’s professional orchestra, has collaborated with such masters as Plácido Domingo, Yundi Li, the English National Ballet, Lang Lang and Sarah Chang. They maintain a year-round schedule of concerts and also tour internationally.

Looking to Macau’s Chinese heritage, the Macao Chinese Orchestra plays both classical and contemporary Chinese music, and places particular emphasis on performing commissioned works that highlight elements of Macau’s culture.

Further treats this autumn are on offer at another Macau cultural institution: on September 29, the Macau Military Club is staging a programme of works by Brahms, Mahler, Bizet and de Falla. Titled Songs of a Wayfarer, the concert will feature performances by acclaimed pianist Sheung Lee, a Royal Academy of Music graduate and protégé of Julius Drake, and international mezzo-soprano Carol Lin, who has won numerous awards including First and Grand Prix in the 5th Yokohama International Music Competition.

And Macau has yet more to offer beyond the constraints of classical music: there’s a burgeoning indie and underground scene, supported by such organisations as the Live Music Association. This dedicated and proactive group arranges gigs all year round at its venue in the heart of Macau, hosting local and international acts.

Other venues are getting in on the live act too, with pubs like Beer Temple on Rua De Nossa Senhora and Old Taipa Tavern on Rua dos Negociantes welcoming bands and performers up and down the calendar.