Bangkok’s International Festival of Dance & Music is back with its 21st edition celebrating the ultimate in opera, ballet, music and more from Sept 11 to Oct 23
This year Bangkok’s International Festival of Dance & Music celebrates 21 years of bringing the best in opera, ballet, music and more to a growing Bangkok audience. Scheduled from Sept 11 to Oct 23, this carefully curated six-week long Festival is full of performances that you don’t want to miss, covering everything from the classical end of the scale all they way over to the modern and contemporary.
The Festival opens with two classical operas: Turandot and Rusalka by Ekaterinburg Opera Theatre from Russia. The opera theatre, looked upon as a custodian of Russian and international musical traditions, is Russia’s oldest and has been recognized with 15 Golden Mask Awards (83 nominations). A prestigious award, the Golden Mask in Russia is the equivalent only to the Oscar and recognizes the best in all performing arts
Ekaterinburg Theatre’s first offering is Giacomo Puccini’s two-act opera Turandot (Sept 11), sung in Italian. The story set in China, has Prince Calaf falling in love with a coldhearted Princess. To marry her, a suitor must solve three riddles; wrong answers result in death. Calaf passes the test, but Turandot still refuses to marry him. He offers her a way out: if she is able to learn his name before dawn the next day, then at daybreak he will die.
This remarkable version of Turandot features leading Italian tenor Paolo Lardinzzone playing Prince Calaf; Paolo has performed in leading opera theatres including La Scala of Milan and has been recognised with several awards. An extremely taxing role, Calaf demands a lot from the tenor, not only does he sing more than anyone else but the main duet “Nessun dorma” for which this opera is known for comes much later in the story. And Paolo pulls it off with aplomb. Singing Turandot is an accomplished soprano: Zoya Tsererina from St Petersburg. No easy task, as Turandot too is a very demanding role.
Interestingly Puccini left this opera incomplete and it fell to Franco Alfano to complete it based on sketches Puccini left behind. This is an opera full of show-stopping arias and an extremely dramatic score. And Ekateringburg Theatre turns into a spectacle that it was meant to be.
On Sept 13, the company stages Antonin Dvorak’s Rusalka, an opera in three acts, sung in Czech. Of Dvorak’s 10 operas Rusalka has found a permanent place in the international repertoire of all major opera theatres. If the story of the Little Mermaid intrigues, Rusalka will positively enchant. The story is simple: an immortal water nymph falls in love with a prince and yearns to become human. Dvorak’s score keeps the human and mythical worlds apart while it explores the disturbing universe of this Slavic fairy tale. With his music Dvorak brings into focus the essential differences between humans and supernatural beings. It’s a dark tale of love, and differences that can never be bridged. Rusalka is a romantic, she is an optimist and in the end she is a defeated realist, an outcast essayed perfectly by Elena Pavlova. The prince is played Ilgam Valiev, an Honoured Artist of the Republic of Tatarstan and winner of the Golden Mask jury Special Award. For both operas, the orchestra is conducted by Konstantin Chudovsky. A multiple award-winning opera, ballet and symphony conductor Chudovsky was named by the Financial Times as one of 25 Russians to watch and as ‘one of the country’s movers and shakers’.
On September 16 & 17 attention turns to ballet as satire, as espoused by the storied Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, from New York. This company of professional male dancers performing classical ballet and modern dance, has enjoyed decades of success thanks to its satirical take on the dance form. Affectionately called The Trocks, they have delighted audiences of all ages at packed houses across USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, France, Portugal, Italy, Canada, Japan, South America, South Africa, Germany, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Ireland, China and more. An evening with the Trocks as New York Times put it is all about “daft diva antics… [The show is] brilliant, unsettling, riveting – the epitome of Trocks style!” It’s hard not to laugh when male dancers balance delicately en pointe as swan princesses, delicate sylphs, ethereal water sprites, and Victorian ladies. Their impressive technical skills, underlining the traditions of classical ballet.
Switzerland’s Compagnia Finzi Pasca brings to the Bangkok stage La Verità (Sept 21 & 22). An electrifying performance that was developed over the course of 35 years. Inspired by surrealism, the performance is a combination of acrobatics, theatre, dance and music with multi-talented singers /dancers /acrobats. The company has performed in 63 cities in 24 countries and has also created three Olympic Ceremonies, five operas for leading companies (Mariinsky Theatre, Teatro San Carlo & English National Opera), and Avudo, a multimedia show for Montreal and a lot more. El Mundo, a Spainish newspaper called their performance “A show that combines the language of acrobatics with dreamlike images.”
It’s back to fairy tale world with two performances by The Imperial Ice Stars from the United Kingdom. The Imperial Ice Stars have an unrivalled reputation for pushing the boundaries of ice dance with their skill and athleticism, and their creative and powerful story- telling. They are the only ice skating company to have won a theatrical award.
On Sept 26 & 27 they will take to their massive frozen stage at the Thailand Cultural Centre for Swan Lake on Ice, while on Sept 28 & 29 it is the turn of Cinderella on Ice. Tchaikovsky’s glorious music highlights the exhilarating new choreography of Swan Lake. This innovative portrayal of the classic love story features over 35 skaters including 20 World, European and National Championship skaters. These skaters have taken contemporary ice dance to a new level with their daring but graceful feats – some of which are so complex they haven’t yet been named. Artistic Director Tony Mercer says, “Inspired by Tchaikovsky’s original score and his intentions for the story, I wanted to create a more realistic interpretation and transpose it onto ice, creating a new art form in the process – ice dance in a full theatrical setting.” Cinderella on Ice benefits from the same treatment: dramatic and novel interpretation, beautiful sets and dazzling costumes. Both shows are perfect for audiences of all ages.
The Festival then turns to Beijing and China’s National Treasure Li Yugang on Oct 5 & 6, for two shows of Lady Zhaojun – a contemporary interpretation of a classic story of one of China’s legendary ancient beauties. Multi-award winning singer Li Yugang is a legendary figure in China with a following in China and across Asia in the millions. To Bangkok, Li Yugang along with 70 dancers, singers and actors presents a performance that premiered in Beijing this April, and is being staged outside China for the first time in Bangkok. In store is a grand production with elaborate sets and stunning costumes and a performance that connects the enigmatic orient of the past and its traditions to the 21st century, drawing deeply on the traditions of Chinese opera, folk music and drama while energizing it with newer innovations. The production traces the path of Lady Zhaojun as she devotes herself to ensuring lasting peace between the Han dynasty and Xiongnu empire.
Taking a contemporary turn the Festival heads to the Netherlands with Introdans (Oct 11), the country’s most active ballet company. Holland’s leading dance company, Introdans is known for its talented dancers, creative choreography and riveting performances. Introdans’ approach to ballet is not only contemporary but also one that’s creative, surprising, dynamic, dazzling, and gravity-defying. A range of leading choreographers have created astonishing choreographic works for Introdans… all superbly crafted and delivered by accomplished artists. Introdans believes that its language of dance is universal and can bring together and move entire generations. For Bangkok the company will perform two works of choreographer Hans van Manen (Polish Pieces and Black Cake), Ella by choreographerRobert Battle to the music of Ella Fitzgerald and In Memoriam bychoreographerSidi Larbi Cherkaoui. This performance is all about the joy of dance.
Next, it is time for classical music with Hungary’s leading symphonic orchestra: Concerto Budapest Symphony Orchestra (Oct 13). Under the baton of conductor, world-renowned violinist and pedagogue András Keller, the century old orchestra will tackle Franz Liszt’s Les Preludes, Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Symphonic Fantasy – Francesca da Rimini and Bela Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra. András Keller is also the Artistic Director of the orchestra and his leadership led to a period of dramatic artistic growth and development for the orchestra.
The scene shifts to classical ballet with three performances by Kremlin Ballet: The Hunchback of Notre Dame or Esmerlada (Oct 15), A Thousand and One Nights (Oct 17) and Swan Lake (Oct 19). The first is based on Victor Hugo’s romantic tale of the hunchback of Notre Dame (Notre Dame de Paris), the second on an Arabian folktale and the third is Tchaikovsky’s most famous ballet and the ultimate symbol of the Russian ballet. All three spellbinding masterpieces are choreographed by Andrei Petrov who is also the Artistic Director of Kremlin Ballet. The ballet company was founded nearly three decades ago at the Kremlin Palace. And ever since, has been an integral component of the creative achievements in Russian ballet. All three ballets will be accompanied by an orchestra conducted by Evgeny Volynsky.
Curtains come down on the 21st edition of the Festival with a Tour de Force: José Carreras, who performs in his Farewell Concert. No words can describe his genius, his talent, his sheer stage presence. This is your chance to catch one of the greatest talents known to the world, live in Bangkok. With a Grammy award to his credit and several nominations, Carreras is one the famous Three Tenors. In Bangkok, he will be accompanied by world-renowned soprano Celine Byrne and conductor David Giménez whose extraordinary understanding of the voice has seen him perform with leading singers, as also orchestras. This will be an extraordinary opportunity. Don’t miss it.
Supporting the Festival are Bangkok Bank (PCL), Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park, BMW Thailand, B.Grimm Group, Indorama Ventures, Major Cineplex Group, Nation Group, PTT (PCL), PTT Global Chemical PCL, Singha Corporation, Thai Union Group, Thai Airways International, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) and Ministry of Culture.
For more information: www.bangkokfestivals.com
Tickets: Thai Ticket Major (www.thaiticketmajor.com; Hotline 02 262 3191 and at the counters.
Venue: Thailand Cultural Centre, Bangkok