The 44th Hong Kong Arts Festival

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Feb 19-Mar 20

The 44th Hong Kong Arts Festival is back in all its glory. Ambrose Li selects some of the must-see performances

The highlight of the city’s performing arts calendar, the annual Hong Kong Arts Festival (HKAF) returns this month for four weeks of quality programming. Having invited a number of famous names from across the arts to perform, audiences are spoilt for choice. Whether it’s a reinterpretation of traditional Korean dance, a new flamenco story, a Cantonese opera about the poet Li Bai or the Asian debut of renowned operatic soprano Anna Netrebko, the performances at this year’s HKAF are linked by the themes of love, life and legacy.

With so much going on, it can be hard to choose what to see, especially when headline events sell out so fast. That’s where we come in. Time Out has trawled the programme to select the best events flying under the radar. So what are you waiting for?

Simon Boccanegra

A rare opportunity to indulge in the grandeur and resplendent production of one of Verdi’s most complicated operatic works, brought to Hong Kong by the celebrated Teatro Regio Torino. Starring a stellar cast, Simon Boccanegra conveys an enduring message of familial reconciliation between a father and his daughter, with interjections of conspiracies, politics and passions in the 14th century Genoa. The opera, a daring and complex work, displays Verdi’s experimental nature and is brought to life by specialist opera conductor Roberto Abbado who will lead these performances. Returning to Hong Kong for the first time since his rendition of La Traviata at the HKAF three years ago, Abbado should once again captivate Hong Kong audiences with this other mesmerizing score of Verdi’s. Sat Feb 27, 8pm, Concert Hall, Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Tickets: $350-$980;

Danz Up

In Danz Up, part of the fifth Hong Kong Jockey Club Contemporary Dance Series (CDS), the HKAF is showcasing the wealth of young talent in the local dance scene. Commissioned by the HKAF, this production features several stories built around the desperate pursuit of one’s dreams. Perhaps drawing inspiration from the difficulties of being a dancer in a city so obsessed with the bottom line, Danz Up reflects the complications youths face in fighting for their passion in an action-packed performance with a distinctly local flavour. Over the years, members of the CDS have been invited to perform or collaborate on shows in Japan, Korea and France among other places, so the talents involved are no rough diamonds. Rather, this is the cutting edge of the local dance scene. Mar 5-13, various times, Kwai Tsing Theatre. Tickets: $140-$240;

Royal Shakespeare Company

Whether you know Shakespeare’s works back to front or are a literary novice, these dazzling new productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) are not to be missed. Following critically acclaimed seasons at London’s Barbican Centre and Stratford-upon-Avon, the RSC’s Henry IV (Part I & II) and Henry V brings to life some of the The Bard’s most iconic characters and scenes. The trilogy depicts what it takes for Prince Hal, the future Henry V, to leave behind his reckless youth and become a worthy king of England. What better way to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death than by seeing his ‘History Plays’ in repertoire for the first time ever in Hong Kong? Mar 4-13, 7.30pm, Lyric Theatre, HKAPA. Tickets: $200-$680;

Strings Attached

Explore the chemistry inherent in different musical cultures when East meets West. Strings Attached – Violin and Veena, is presented by husband and wife duo, Rajagopalan and Jayanthi Kumaresh, from India. Playing the veena, referred to as ‘the instrument of the gods’, sixth generation performer Jayanthi engages in a captivating musical conversation with the violin of her partner, a former child prodigy. Carnatic, the tradition of Indian classical music, and Western classical music are given a remarkable spin at the hands of these major stars of Indian music. Accompanied by two traditional percussive instruments, the mridangam and ghatam, this fusion of separate musical cultures should prove a true delight for world music lovers. Fri Mar 4, 8pm, Theatre, Hong Kong City Hall. Tickets: $120-$180;

Beijing Opera

Marvel at the spectacles produced by the Jingju Theatre Company in a throwback to the 1930s and the golden age of Beijing opera. The Artistry of Zhang Junqiu highlights the Zhang School of singing and acting within Beijing opera, and will feature one of Zhang’s most prominent disciples, Wang Rongrong. Widely praised as the bearer of the true traditions of Beijing opera, the Zhang School is known for its warm and round singing tone, somewhat akin to the bel canto style of Western opera. Set to showcase classics such as the epics Romance of the West Chamber and Riverside Pavilion, the performances will enable the audience to deepen its appreciation of the classical aesthetics of Beijing opera. Feb 24-28, various times, Concert Hall, Hong Kong City Hall. Tickets: $100-$380;

Asian Pacific Dance

Apart from promoting local talent in Hong Kong, the HKAF is also home to the Asia Pacific Dance Platform (APDP), which brings dancers from across the Asia Pacific region to Hong Kong to exchange culture and legacies. Now in its eighth edition, the APDP features Shaghainese dancer Gu Jiani. With her training in classical ballet and classical Chinese dance accompanied by an interest in modern dance, Right & Left brings to audiences another perspective of East meets West, from the traditional to the contemporary. The APDP also has the honour of hosting the world premiere of Ross McCormack’s The Weight of Force. McCormack is known for his impressive control over the body as a means of expression, and this new, avant-garde work is set to be a tour de force. Mar 4-5, various times, Black Box Theatre, Kwai Tsing Theatre. Tickets: $200;

Rufus Wainwright

In collaboration with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, superstar singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright pays tribute to the elegance and glamour of opera in Prima Donna, a symphonic visual concert. Inspired by interviews with the iconic soprano Maria Callas back in the 1960s, the first half of the concert tells the story of a retired opera singer attempting to regain the spotlight. The second half of the concert focuses on Wainwright’s works from his numerous albums, with lush strings and thick brass accompaniments that evoke the glory days of opera that have long since faded. Don’t miss out on Wainwright’s long-waited Hong Kong debut! Tue Mar 1, 8pm, Concert Hall, Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Tickets: $240-$720;

44th Hong Kong Arts Festival
Feb 19-Mar 20,


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