Fri, Jul 19, 2002 - Page 18 News List

CKS celebrates 15th anniversary

By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER

CKS Cultural Foundation Director Ju Jung-ching.

PHOTO: IAN BARTHOLOMEW, TAIPEI TIMES

On Oct. 31, the National Concert Hall and the National Theater will turn 15. At a press conference last Tuesday, Chiang Kai-shek Cultural Foundation director Ju Jung-ching (朱宗慶) announced the program that will be part the official celebration. While most events will be part of the CKS Cultural Foundation's autumn program, a number of major events have been added to lend luster to the event.

Ju, the director of Taiwan's most highly regarded percussion ensemble who took over management of the National Theater and Concert Hall last year, said that an important aim of the nation's premier performance venues was to bring down the entry barrier for the appreciation of the arts. "It is for this reason that we have brought in corporate sponsorship for some events," he said, pointing primarily to the Jose Cura and Kathleen Battle recitals in November, where premium seats will be available for only NT$2,500 and prices going as low as NT$400. The event is being sponsored by the Delta Foundation (台達電子文教基金會), whose involvement has brought down ticket prices for this major concert to prices that regular concert-goers can afford. Hugh Lee (李國修), director of the Ping-Fong Acting Troupe (屏風表演班), who will be putting on a new show as part of the celebrations, pointed out that such support for international bookings should not overshadow the still parlous state of theater in Taiwan. Ping-Fong, one of Taiwan's few permanent dramatic groups, had threatened to cease performances in protest at a situation in which permanent groups found it increasingly difficult to survive.

Saying that he did not want to upset proceedings, he gained vocal support from an audience that included many of Taiwan's top performers when he pointed out that the corporate support that the CKS Cultural Foundation was so loudly promoting was only going to high-profile classical music concerts, with absolutely nothing for drama. Although ticket sales for The Aurora Borealis (北極之光), which is scheduled to open on Oct. 31, it has already sold an extraordinary 85 percent of tickets, a huge vote of confidence in the group.

In line with lowering the entry barrier for people who might not generally be regular theater-goers, a number of big shows have been scheduled for outdoor spaces around the theater and concert hall. This will include a massive outdoor performance of ketsai opera by the Ming Hwa Yuan Taiwanese Opera Company (明華園). Chen Sheng-fu (陳勝福), the president of Ming Hwa Yuan, promised to draw 200,000 for a free outdoor concert scheduled for Oct. 31, in a display of bravado that is well backed up by the company's strong commercial record. Overall, for indoor performances, CKS public relations chief Liu Jia-yu (劉家渝) said that there were at total of 120,000 tickets to be sold for the three month season of 107 performances.

In addition to Jose Cura and Kathleen Battle, the other major imported acts include a visit by cello virtuoso Misoslav Rostropovich (Sept. 7), the first and third groups of the Nederlands Dans Theater (Oct. 11-13 and Oct. 25-27) and the Choir of Westminster Abbey (Oct. 27). High-profile local premiers include Smoke by the Cloud Gate Theater and in the minor league, the launch of the Zhu Lu-hao Traditional Chinese Theater Company (朱陸豪京劇團), in which famed comedian Sung Shao-ching (宋少卿) in what is being billed as "new Chinese comic opera" (Oct. 17-20) and She is Walking, She is Smiling, by Performance Workshop directed by Chin Shih-jie (金士傑). On the music front, the National Symphony Orchestra, under Chien Wen-bin, will perform the complete Beethoven symphonies and piano concerti in five concerts in September.

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