The 50th edition of the Hong Kong Arts Festival (HKAF) should be celebrated with great fanfare for the cultural landmark that it is, but with Covid-19 travel restrictions unlikely to be lifted in time for spring 2022, on December 14 organisers announced a line-up dominated by local acts. They said they hoped Hong Kong audiences would still be enthused by the plethora of new commissions and increasingly sophisticated use of digital technology in the arts. The annual festival of performing arts officially kicks off on February 25 with Laila , an “immersive opera” with free admission co-produced by the HKAF and the Finnish National Opera and Ballet that is one of the major highlights among the 60 programmes to be presented over six weeks. Unlike 2021, when the festival had to cancel a number of in-venue programmes because of social distancing and even move Hong Kong shows online, the 2022 edition will take full advantage of venues’ reopening; only nine of the programmes are going to be online. Even if there is a general fatigue with streaming after two years of the pandemic, Tisa Ho, the festival’s executive director, said online programmes were probably here to stay. “There are some things that, because they are intended to be online, you can’t do even if [the performers] were here,” she said. For example, TM , by the Belgian group Ontroerend Goed, is a live, interactive online performance for one audience member at a time. Laila is a good example of the festival bringing an immersive, international collaboration to Hong Kong audiences without having to put actors through a lengthy quarantine. Performed in a dome-shaped space at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, it incorporates artificial intelligence, virtual reality, real-time sensors and other technologies, and each 15-20 minute session will admit only six to eight people at a time. In the absence of visiting international performers, the festival will unveil a number of ambitious local commissions. Yat-sen is likely to draw a lot of attention – composer Peter Kam and director Tang Wai-kit have created a coming-of-age musical about Sun Yat-sen, a towering figure of modern China. The long-awaited We Are Gay , a new Cantonese play by Candice Chong Mui-ngam, will also have its debut. Described as a tale of suspense about “conflicting values between two generations of gay men”, it was originally planned for 2020. The only live English-language drama in the 2022 festival is Miss Julie , a new adaptation of the 1888 Swedish play by August Strindberg set in colonial Hong Kong. The co-production with the Singapore Repertory Theatre is adapted by Amy Ng and directed by Ng Choon Ping. Theatre buffs should also look out for Wonder Boy , an exclusive recording of a live performance from Bristol Old Vic in the UK. Also billed as a major highlight is Love Streams , directed by Yang Yuntao, a two-act dance opera that combines two previous HKAF commissions, Heart of Coral and Women Like Us, and a tribute to two female Chinese writers, Xiao Hong and Xi Xi. For its 50th anniversary, Ho said the festival wanted to connect both backwards and forwards in time. “The classics will always have a place in the festival, and we hope that some of the new work premiered will become part of the canon of the future,” she said.