By The Nation
BANGKOK’S International Festival of Dance & Music returns on September 11 for its 21st edition and as always will be bringing the best in opera, ballet, music and more to Bangkok audiences.
The festival opens with two classical operas – “Turandot” and “Rusalka” – by Ekaterinburg Opera Theatre from Russia. The opera theatre is Russia’s oldest and has been recognised with 15 Golden Mask Awards.
Ekaterinburg Theatre’s first offering is Giacomo Puccini’s two-act opera “Turandot” on September 11, sung in Italian. The story, which is set in China, has Prince Calaf falling in love with a cold-hearted 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. Lardinzzone has performed in leading opera theatres including La Scala of Milan and has been recognised with several awards. 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 comes much later in the story. And Paolo pulls it off with aplomb. Singing Turandot is accomplished soprano: Zoya Tsererina from St Petersburg. No easy task, as Turandot too is a very demanding role.
Interestingly Puccini left this opera unfinished and it fell to Franco Alfano to complete it based on sketches Puccini left behind. It is a work full of show-stopping arias and an extremely dramatic score. And Ekateringburg Theatre turns it into the spectacle it was meant to be.
On September 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.
On September 16 and 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.
Switzerland’s Compagnia Finzi Pasca brings to the Bangkok stage “La Verita” (September 21 and 22). Inspired by surrealism, the performance is a combination of acrobatics, theatre, dance and music with multi- talented singers/dancers/acrobats. It’s back to fairytale 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 September 26 and 27, they will take to their massive frozen stage at the Thailand Cultural Centre for “Swan Lake on Ice”, while on September 28 and 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 more a cast of than 35 including 20 World, European and National Championship skaters. These talented artistes take contemporary dance to a new level with their daring but graceful feats – some of which are so complex they haven’t yet been named.
The festival then turns to Beijing and China’s National Treasure Li Yugang on October 5 and 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. For 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.
Taking a contemporary turn, the festival heads to the Netherlands with Introdans on October 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 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 choreographer Robert Battle to the music of Ella Fitzgerald and “In Memoriam” by choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
Classical music comes to the festival though Hungary’s leading symphonic orchestra, Concerto Budapest Symphony Orchestra, on October 13. Under the baton of its conductor, the world-renowned violinist and pedagogue Andras Keller, the century-old orchestra will tackle Franz Liszt’s “Les Preludes”, Tchaikovsky’s “Symphonic Fantasy - Francesca da Rimini” and Bela Bartok’s “Concerto for Orchestra”.
The scene shifts to classical ballet with three performances by Kremlin Ballet: “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” or “Esmeralda” on October 15, “A Thousand and One Nights” on October 17 and “Swan Lake” on October 19. The first is based on Victor Hugo’s romantic tale of the hunchback of Notre Dame, the second on an Arabian folktale and the third is Tchaikovsky’s most famous ballet and the ultimate symbol of the Russian ballet.
The curtain falls on this year’s event with a Tour de Force: Jose Carreras performing his Farewell Concert. 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 Gimenez whose extraordinary understanding of the voice has seen him perform with leading singers, as also orchestras. This will be an extraordinary opportunity and early reservations are highly recommended.
Supporting the festival are Bangkok Bank PCL, B. Grimm Group, BMW Thailand, Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park, Indorama Ventures, Ministry of Culture, Nation Group, PTT Public Company Limited, PTT Global Chemical Public Company Limited, Singha Corporation, Thai Union Group PCL, Thai Airways International and Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Learn more at www.BangkokFestivals.com.
? All shows will be performed at the Thailand Cultural Centre Bangkok.
Tickets are available at www.ThaiTicketMajor.com or by calling (02) 262 3191.