Hong Kong Arts Festival 2015

Hong Kong Arts Festival promises stellar line-up of performances

Advance bookings start tomorrow for city's largest arts event, which promises stellar line-up

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 October, 2014, 4:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 January, 2015, 3:03pm

The city's largest arts event has pledged to continue its diverse programming with local and international artists as it waits to hear whether government funding will be renewed.

The 43rd Hong Kong Arts Festival, with a record HK$112 million budget, will kick off in February 2015. In 137 shows over 34 days, some of the biggest names in music, dance and theatre will perform - including 10 world premieres, such as a local theatre work The Amahs. Advance bookings will start tomorrow.

"We sort of counterbalance towards what the LCSD [Leisure and Cultural Services Department] and individual performing art groups present," said festival chairman Ronald Arculli after a press conference yesterday.

"If you look at the commitment the government has made in the West Kowloon Cultural District in terms of additional venues to be brought about, clearly the programming side is absolutely critical," he said.

On the government's funding for the next five-year cycle, he said he was "99.99 per cent" confident of the renewal.

And the ongoing protests would not impact the festival, he said. "I wouldn't connect what's happening now with the arts festival. The students have very strong feelings as to democracy and aspirations. But as far as arts and culture are concerned, it has always been valued in freedom of expression and creativity in a modern society," he said.

Tisa Ho, the festival's executive director, said the sponsors, who contributed 30 per cent of the total revenue, had been committed. "As far as I know, no one has pulled out, and I hope it will stay that way," she said.

Programme director Grace Lang added that none of the 1,424 artists, local or international, had expressed concern or doubt about the festival in 2015.

"We have more concern about the weather or other logistics than the protests, which I am sure will be resolved by the time of the festival," Lang said.

She said plans for the two orchestras and the opera-ballet company had to be made as far back as two years ago.

"Maestro Christian Thielemann and the Staatskapelle Dresden, which will open the festival, will be on tour then, and we have to work that into their route. The same applies to Gustav Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which will be his first in Asia," she said.

As for the Bolshoi Opera and Ballet from Moscow, her concern was focused on the three-hour opera of The Tsar's Bride by Rimsky-Korsakov under conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky, who cancelled his appearance in 2004 due to illness.

"Let us pray that he could come and conduct all three shows," she said.

Some local artists, however, have been struggling in their commissioned works against the backdrop of the protests.

"My new orchestral work is about inner peace and now I need exactly that to complete it," said Joyce Tang Wai-chung of Clear Light, to be premiered by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta.