30th Macao Arts Festival 2019

By Jonathan Evans
Photo Credits : ICM Macao / Louis Li 

As the highlight of the year’s arts calendar in Macau, the territory’s biggest arts festival has another reason to celebrate throughout May 2019, as the event turns 30. Since 1989 Macau’s annual feast of theatre, dance, music, circus, multimedia and visual arts has brought together local, regional and international performers in an all-encompassing celebration of the arts. Among the most prominent artforms represented are Cantonese opera, western classical and modern music, and Chinese and Macanese drama. Several performances take place in the atmospheric environs of Macau’s Unesco-listed World Heritage sites such as the Historic Centre.

Photo Credit: Laurent Philippe, Grand Opening Performance “Vertikal” 

Each year the festival runs along a broad theme, and the 100 or so varied shows (as well as outreach activities) in this 30th iteration go under the umbrella heading of “a tribute to the classics”. The festival opens on 3 May with a staging of the acclaimed “Vertikal” from French choreographer Mourad Merzouki at the Macao Cultural Centre, in which art and athleticism combine in a mid-air performance informed by hip-hop techniques and electronic music from composer Armand Amar. On 1 June, the festival closes with “The Soul of Macao”, in which the Foshan Cantonese Opera Troupe stages an imaginative and colourful retelling of a real-life event from 1849 centred around the expropriation of land in Macau and a painted scroll from southern China – a story adapted by playwright Li Xinhua from a Beijing Opera performance that was in turn penned by a Macau writer.

Photo Credit: Anne Van Aerschot "Rain"

Photo Credit: (Left -Alípio Padilha)“Karl Valentin Kabarett” , (Right -BJAMC Drama)“Mr. Ma and Son”

Three performances in between these bookends underscore the eclectic nature of the festival’s artistic scope. On 12 May at the Macao Cultural Centre, Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, known for her love of minimalist music, teams up with her dance troupe Rosas to present “Rain”, a terpsichorean interpretation of the music of Steve Reich. At the Sands Theatre on 24 May, “Karl Valentin Kabarett” from Portugal’s Teatro do Electrico combines short sketches from the early 20th-century comedian known as the “Charlie Chaplin of Germany” with popular German songs from the period, in a performance full of music, drama, dance and comedy. And on 25-26 May at the Macao Cultural Centre, Beijing’s BJAMC theatre group stages “Mr. Ma and Son”, an adaptation of Lao She’s novel in which an ambitious Chinese merchant takes over his late brother’s antiques emporium in London, only to head into a romantic situation with his landlady despite their collision of cultures and ideals. The performance is unusual in many ways, since the original novelist’s children acted as literary consultants for this contemporary staging, and the cast is all-male.

Photography:(Left) “An Alpine Symphony”, (Right) “Chinese Musical Painting”

As for some of the other musical highlights, on 9 May, soprano Katrin Adel takes the lead singing role in Richard Strauss’ “An Alpine Symphony”, in which the composer reflected on his own mountain-climbing experience while also tracing a metaphorical journey through a person’s life. The Macao Orchestra joins the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra for the performance. On 21 May, “Chinese Musical Painting” features sheng (reed) player Jia Lei and zhongruan (string instrument) specialist Lin Jie, who take on Kuan Nai-chung’s “Peacock” and Liu Xing’s “Reminiscences of Yunnan” respectively, together with modern works “Phoenix”, “Dabo River Caprice” and “Barley Frame in Nixi” performed by an orchestra. Collectively, the concert of melodious works builds up a musical painting of south-west China.

Photography: Don't miss the productions by local Macanese Artists. (Top Left-Hsu Ping) "Man Tan, Kat Cheong" (Top Right-Calvin Lam) "Wonder.Land"(Bottom-Terry Lin) "Kaléidoscope"

This summer, there’s another reason for lovers of the arts to celebrate as the inaugural Art Macao comes to town between May and October. Described as a “mega international arts and cultural event”, the festival uses one of the city’s most attractive areas as its backdrop to present two very different exhibitions at the Macau Museum of Art. The first, “Italian Renaissance Drawings from the British Museum”, brings together some of the most important works from London’s collection of medieval masterworks from Italy; while the second, “Masterpieces from the Collection of the National Art Museum of China”, celebrates both the 20th anniversary of Macau’s handover to China and the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. The exhibitions form part of the local government’s plan to nurture “smart tourism” and promote the creative industries, in order to boost visitor numbers and refashion the city’s image both at home and overseas.

Photography: (Top) Macao Cultural Centre, (Bottom) Macau Museum of Art presenting “Masterpieces from the Collection of the National Art Museum of China”

Website: www.icm.gov.mo

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