It’s not unusual for a festival to span many art forms: theatre, dance and circus rubbing shoulders with opera and concerts in various musical genres. But next year’s Hong Kong Arts Festival, which opens on 20th February and runs for about a month, seems to make a point of going further, including several events which mix up different art forms within the same performance.

<i>Human Requiem</i>: Rundfunkchor Berlin © Matthias Heyde
Human Requiem: Rundfunkchor Berlin
© Matthias Heyde
Take, for example, the performances of Brahms’ German Requiem, in the august confines of HK University’s Loke Yew Hall. It’s a performance of a work that’s very much in the middle of the standard choral repertoire, by a highly respected choir (the Rundfunkchor Berlin). But look at the programme closely: there’s no orchestra, you’ll spot the presence of the Sasha Waltz & Guests dance company and you’ll see a promise to “banish separate spaces for performers and audiences”. Clearly, this is going to be anything but a run-of-the-mill Requiem concert.

Chamber music fans will head for one of several concerts by the Debussy Quartet, Baroque fans for Concerto Copenhagen or harpsichordist Lars Ulrik Mortensen, while there’s more Shostakovich on offer from Russian piano star Alexander Melnikov.

On 3 March, you do have the option of a relatively straight requiem concert, by going to the HK Cultural Centre to see Verdi's Messa da Requiem played by the Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Regio di Torino and their Music Director Gianandrea Noseda (I use the word “relatively” because the Verdi work is far more operatic than liturgical in style). Noseda has been on top of his game recently, so the chance to hear him conduct Verdi with his own authentically Italian opera house orchestra is not to be missed. Noseda also conducts the orchestra in a concert of Shostakovich and Prokofiev, and the Teatro Regio are doing more Verdi in the shape of three performances of Simon Boccanegra, as well as playing a mixed Verdi/Wagner opera gala on 27 February, all under the baton of another top Italian conductor, Roberto Abbado.

Teatro Regio's <i>Simon Boccanegra</i> © Ramella & Giannese | Teatro Regio di Torino
Teatro Regio's Simon Boccanegra
© Ramella & Giannese | Teatro Regio di Torino
For proper opera crossover, look no further than Rufus Wainwright’s Prima Donna, his opera loosely based on the story of Maria Callas, which will be performed on 1 March in a concert+film version and followed by Wainwright doing his more usual singer-songwriter material in the second half. The HK Philharmonic will be conducted by young Portuguese conductor Joana Carneiro, who impressed us last year. The HK Phil will also be backing Anna Netrebko in an evening of opera arias.

To conclude the opera theme: here’s also opera, but not as you know it, in the shape of Chinese Opera. Beijing star Wang Rongrong will be giving a series of performances which pay tribute to one of the late greats of the form: Zhang Junqiu, who specialised in “qingyi” (“Green robe”) roles. Chinese music also features in an orchestral concert on 27 February, with the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, while Chinese dance comes from choreographer Mak Shing with the show Danz Up at the Kwai Tsing Theatre. There’s more dance from such diverse performers as the National Dance Company of Korea and the Mikhailovsky Ballet.

And if your taste for the eclectic hasn’t been satisfied by anything above, try American session vocalist Lisa Fischer (you may not know her name, but you’ve heard her voice on hundreds of hits), Fanfare Ciocarlia (a Romanian gypsy brass band who play anything from funk to the James Bond Theme), Malian songwriter Fatoumata Diawara hooking up with Buena Vista Social Club pianist Roberto Fonseca (the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club also plays three concerts), a 6 March concert that juxtaposes Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht with music for steel pans and marimba, or a music-rooted contemporary circus performance entitled “The Pianist” by Finnish company Circo Aereo. If, in that whole collection, you can't find at least one show to entice you, we'll be amazed.


This preview was sponsored by Hong Kong Arts Festival