AN EXTRAORDINARY, highly original and prize-winning music-dance event from Europe is expected to be a talking point among Hong Kong's arts lovers when it is staged at the Hong Kong Arts Festival in March next year. Described as 'sublime', 'epic' and 'extravagant', The Great Mass is a joint dance and classical music presentation by three leading German performing arts ensembles - the Leipzig Ballet, the Gewandhaus Orchestra, and the chorus and soloists of the Leipzig Opera. The German choreographer Uwe Scholz took his inspiration from the liturgy of the Roman Catholic mass to create The Great Mass, which is based on music by Mozart, including the composer's unfinished Mass in C minor. The ballet music includes Gregorian chant and contemporary music by Gyorgy Kurtag, Thomas Jahn and Arvo Part. Members of the Leipzig Ballet perform to live music provided by the Gewandhaus Orchestra and singers from the Leipzig Opera. The legendary German choreographer, who was appointed artistic director of the Leipzig Ballet in 1991, is credited with transforming the troupe into an ensemble of international standing. 'Scholz had planned for a long time to choreograph a work based on Mozart's music but could never make up his mind which it should be,' said Paul Chalmer, the director of the Leipzig Ballet. 'For a long time he preferred Mozart's late symphonies, for example Jupiter and Haffner, and then he finally choreographed the Jeunehomme Piano Concerto for the Monte Carlo Ballet. 'Scholz was a choreographer who listened to music and saw this music in choreographic patterns and steps. He could also hear music with his eyes. He had a stunning musicality, a musicality you find very seldom today.' In an obituary on Uwe Scholz, written by Patricia Boccadoro and published in December 2004, Pierre Moutarde, the director of the Theatre of Saint-Quentin-en Yvelines, spoke about his experience working with the famous artistic director: 'Scholz was a man so closely associated to music that I always thought he was the conductor of an orchestra who had temporarily taken another path,' Moutarde said. 'He read and instinctively understood every score, and I remember numerous occasions when we'd be listening to some recording, which he always played very loudly, where he'd interrupt to say, oh no, dear, dear, they are playing the music all wrongly, it should be played like this. 'And he'd get that particular score out and slap the paper with his hand to demonstrate his point.' Chalmer said he and all the artists involved in The Great Mass were looking forward to performing before Hong Kong audiences. 'China has some great choirs that are very well trained to perform European music,' he said. 'The response of Chinese audiences to the Gewandhaus Orchestra, the oldest orchestra in Europe, the choir of the Leipzig Opera and the Leipzig Ballet should be very interesting.' 'I do not believe that Hong Kong audiences will have any trouble understanding The Great Mass. Of course, they might not understand the spoken texts, but the visualisation in the form of the choreography makes clear what is being said. 'The main themes are belief, doubt, freedom, tyranny, and trust - subjects we find in every society or political system.' Asked how relevant a work with strong religious themes would be to a contemporary secular audience, Chalmer said: 'People are increasingly searching for religion or a community where they find protection or at least an orientation. I think this is the case worldwide. The more our society is 'technologised', the more people look for moments when they can relax and feel understood.' Talking about The Great Mass, one critic noted that the work was a powerful visual spectacle that also contained 'moments of great introspection, of moving silences'. 'This ballet is not short, but it is mesmerising, especially when one is confronted by the sheer expertise of the Leipzig Ballet's members,' the critic added. Paul Chalmer will be holding a ballet workshop during the Hong Kong Arts Festival. 'Since many of my European colleagues teach [in Hong Kong], I know that the interest in European ballet is big. This will be a precious experience for me,' he said. 'I have heard a lot about the Hong Kong arts scene, and the open-minded attitude of the city's population towards music and the visual arts. 'I also know that the famous European and American architects built there. It will be fascinating to see how the European world melts into the Chinese. 'And for all of us it will be a fascinating experience to see the response to our work in Hong Kong.'