[Sponsored article] The uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, now into its third year, is continuing to upend events worldwide, including those involving the performing arts community. Since early 2020, soon after the start of the outbreak, artists and creators have been using new technologies, including interconnected devices, to overcome the challenges posed by lockdowns, quarantine measures and social distancing to present their productions to audiences. This year’s 50th Hong Kong Arts Festival (HKAF), an annual event featuring leading local and international artists in a wide range of performing arts, including music, opera, theatre and dance, is offering a line-up of online productions some of which are free to watch. Here are six not-to-be-missed highlights. 1. Upload yourself into an iPad to appear alongside ‘Game of Thrones’ star Over the past few years, we have grown so used to the video conferencing app, Zoom, that we see each other on screen more than in person. Now, imagine “Zooming” into a show. Follow the instructions of Jack Gleeson, the 29-year-old Irish actor known for his portrayal of the sadistic villain Joffrey Baratheon in HBO’s television series, Game of Thrones , and upload yourself to the digital world of To Be A Machine(Version 1.0) . The online production created by the Dublin- and London-based theatre company Dead Centre and based on an award-winning book by Mark O’Connell, explores the world of transhumanism – the belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology. As “a face on the screen”, you will get to engage in this philosophical discussion with the character played by Gleeson. The show will be staged from March 23 to 26. Book your ticket with 50th HKAF here – and get ready to play. 2. Would you dare to accept an online interview to join a mysterious organisation? How well did you do in your last Zoom interview? Are you ready for an “explorative talk” to join a mysterious organisation known as TM, created by confrontational Belgian theatre company Ontroerend Goed. As budding audience members, you will have to answer “yes or no”, “high or low” or “good or evil” to a range of questions – which are only the start of things of the entertaining immersive digital theatre production, called TM , with people slowly eliminated as they try to become “insiders”. Think Nametests’ social media quizzes on steroids, and the result might shock you. Interview dates are from March 12-13, 19-20 and 26-27. Book your place here with 50th HKAF. 3. Bamberg Symphony Orchestra performs well-known works by Mahler, Smetana and Bruckner “Life, death and tradition” will be the theme of a series of free-to-watch live-recorded performances by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra , renowned for its energetic playing, which is based in Germany’s historic Bavarian town of Bamberg. The roots of the orchestra, formed in 1946 by musicians from Bamburg and the former German Philharmonic Orchestra of Prague, can be traced back to the eras of Mozart and Mahler in the 18th and 19th centuries. Under the baton of its chief conductor Jakub Hrůša, the concerts feature Smetana’s Má Vlast (March 16 to April 30) – described as the composer’s “magnificent national epic” written between 1874 and 1879; Bruckner’s Symphony No 9 in D minor (March 21–April 30), the composer’s last work before his death; and Mahler’s Symphony No 9 in D major (March 24–April 30), completed in 1910, the year before the composer’s death in 1911. Register with 50th HKAF to secure your free “seat” for these performances. 4. Paris Opera Ballet performs Rudolf Nureyev’s award-winning choreography for ‘Romeo and Juliet’ The Paris Opera Ballet – the world’s oldest national ballet company established in the 17th century – will be presenting three free recorded performances on March 11, 14 and 21 to a registered online audience. You can sit at home as you watch the award-winning ballet, Romeo and Juliet, by the late Russian ballet dancer and choreographer Rudolf Nureyev, set to music by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. The production, which he choreographed in 1977 and was newly filmed last year, includes a pre-show address by the company’s director of dance Aurélie Dupont. The second performance features Eugène Polyakov and Patrice Bart’s interpretation of Giselle , a story from 1841 focused on love, deceit, death and the wrath of the betrayed, while the third will show Crystal Pite’s Body and Soul , an extraordinary production with 40 dancers performing to the narration of actress Marina Hands and set to a mixture of electronica and Chopin. Get ready to be enthralled by the best ballet in the world and register with 50th HKAF. 5. Revered French playwright Molière’s comedies were too hot to handle in 17th century France The 17th century French actor and playwright Molière – who was born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin in 1622 and died in 1673 – is regarded as the greatest ever writer of French comedy. He was also a true iconoclast, whose works ruffled the feathers of officialdom, but his genius was often able to overcome the fierce criticism he faced and earn him the patronage of the imperial court. In celebration of this year’s 400th anniversary of his birth on January 15th, the 50th HKAF is presenting free online viewing of radical and updated interpretations of two of his plays, Tartuffe and The School for Wives, by Molière specialist Stéphane Braunschweig, who is also artistic director of Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe in Paris. These plays represent two of the highpoints of Molière’s career, but they remain relevant to the times we are living in now. Think 17th century #metoo in The School for Wives , and Tartuffe as imperial France’s timeless reflection of the human tendency to fall prey to fraudsters knowing how to say the right things. Register to reserve a place for free viewing from March 18-25. 6. Bavarian State Opera brings to life Shostakovich’s absurdist satire about a ‘lost’ nose that comes to life The Bavarian State Opera will present a recorded performance of Shostakovich’s opera, The Nose – an absurdist satire in which a giant singing and dancing nose plays the leading role – from March 10 to 17. The story, set in St Petersburg, Russia, in the late 1920s, sees a barber accidently slice off a man’s nose, which escapes, grows to human proportions and gains a life of its own. The incident leads to a series of uproarious events that include a relentless pursuit by police, false marriage proposal and the barber’s imprisonment. The opera, based on Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol’s eponymous 1836 short story, features a montage of styles including folk music and atonality, and 78 acting and singing roles tied together with occasional brilliant orchestral performances. Stay tuned for our forthcoming story about Bristol Old Vic’s exclusive live-recorded performance of Wonder Boy – its new, powerful and moving drama about a 12-year-old boy struggling with a stammer in the increasingly challenging world, which will be shown during the festival from March 26 to April 2. We will interview Sally Cookson, the Olivier award-winning director behind the production, who explains how she makes the show a captivating experience for both live and online audiences.