Since its inception 41 years ago, the Hong Kong Arts Festival has expanded into a veritable extravaganza over the last five years, bringing in top-notch acts from all over the world — and adding some local talent into the mix as well. Tickets tend to sell out quickly, as advance bookings start months in advance. With almost 40 performances running from February 21 to March 22, and plenty of classes, workshops and other programming, it might be difficult to pick what to see, especially if you’re only in town for a short while. To make your life easier, we’ve highlighted a handful of shows that we consider staunch must-sees.
The Artistry of Lao Dan, China National Peking Opera Company
This show highlights lao dan — Beijing opera singers who specialize in the roles of old women, often utilizing stylized acting and singing techniques — who will portray characters across different backgrounds and contexts. If you’ve never seen Chinese opera before, now’s your chance to get a fill of the classics. 7:30 p.m., March 7-8. Starting around $15.
Australian Chamber Orchestra
Lead by Richard Tognetti, the acclaimed Australian ChamberOrchestra will perform a series of works by Shostakovich, Mozart and Brett Dean. Award-winning filmmaker Mick Sowry and photographer Jon Frank also will join the Orchestra for the Asian premiere of The Reef, which combines works of Beethoven and Bach with footage of surfers riding the waves on Ningaloo Reef. 8:15 p.m., March 14-15; The Reef, 4:30 p.m., 8:15 p.m., March 16. Starting around $19.
Einstein on the Beach
Witness the ground-breaking operatic masterpiece scored by contemporary classical great Philip Glass and famed stage director Robert Wilson. Forty years after the performance was first staged, the show is on an international tour with Hong Kong as its only Asian stop. The opera is famous for its evocative symbology in lieu of plot or portrayal of Einstein as a historical icon. It’s also renowned for its innovative structure. Though four hours and 30 minutes with no intermission, audience members can enter and exit the venue during the performance. 6:30 p.m., March 8-9; 2 p.m., March 10. Starting around $25.
Winner of the Best New Artist Award at the 53rd Grammy Awards — Esperanza Spalding beat out more mainstream artists like Drake, Justin Bieber and Florence and the Machine — and two more trophies at the 55th edition on Feb. 10, the Oregon native plays multiple instruments over a host of musical genres, but focuses mostly on jazz and the bass. She has performed with the likes of Stevie Wonder and her 2012 album, Radio Music Society, even found a place on the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 Albums list. 8 p.m., March 15-16. Starting around $15.
One Man, Two Guvnors, The National Theatre of Great Britain
Based on Carlo Goldoni’s play The Servant of Two Masters, this comedy combines improv with British humor to weave a story of hijinks, mishaps and disguised identities, and has received rave reviews from media outlets across the United Kingdom. There will be a meet-the-artists session after the 2:30 p.m. show on February 17. 7:30 p.m., February 15-23; 2:30 p.m., February 16-17, 23. Starting around $25.
Romeo and Juliet, The American Ballet Theatre
This New York-based company is recognized as America’s National Ballet and as one of the leading classical ballet companies in the world. It will perform one of its most well-known productions, Romeo and Juliet, which is choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan. 7:30 p.m., February 27-28 and March 1; 2:30 p.m., 7:45 p.m., March 2-3. Starting around $36.
Photos Courtesy of Paul-Henderson-Kelly and Peking Opera