Almost everywhere you look these days there is an arts festival of some sort going on, each claiming to be the best. The Taichung Traditional Arts Festival opened last weekend, as did the 2012 Taiwan International Festival of the Arts at the National Theater Concert Hall in Taipei. The Tainan Arts Festival opens tomorrow. However, Greater Kaoshiung may have them all beat, if for sheer number of performances and variety of locations, than for no other reason.
The Kaohsiung Spring Arts Festival begins tomorrow with The Tempest at the Kaohsiung Cultural Center’s Chihteh Hall (高雄市文化中心至德堂) and runs through June. The Chekov International Festival/Theatre Les Gemeaux/Cheek by Jowl joint production also opened the 2012 Taiwan International Festival of the Arts last weekend, but Kaohsiung residents aren’t going to quibble about getting the show second-hand, though they might complain about only getting one chance to see it.
Five of the productions in the Kaohsiung lineup are coming down from the Taipei fest, which is a nice example of synergy and spreading the wealth of culture beyond the capital, while three of the festival’s international productions are being staged only in Kaohsiung.
Now in its third year, the Kaohsiung festival is showing its aspirations. It boasts more shows than ever before, as befits the country’s second-largest cultural event after the NTCH extravaganza. The shows are spread out over three sites. There literally is something for everyone and a variety of ticket packages on offer to help festivalgoers get the most for their money.
Music and movie fans will have the chance to revisit two of the biggest movies in Taiwan in the past decade or so with The Lord of the Rings — The Fellowship of the Ring and Seediq Bale Symphonic Poem (賽德克‧巴萊—電影交響詩音樂會). Both of the concerts will be performed in the open air at the grasslands near the lake at the Kaohsiung Museum of the Arts.
Erik Ochsner will conduct the Kaohsiung City Symphony Orchestra (高雄市交響樂團) and soprano Kaitlyn Lusk in the The Lord of the Rings concert, while Yang Chih-chin (楊智欽) will lead the orchestra for the Seediq Bale production, which features several soloists and clips from the film.
Fans of traditional Chinese and Taiwanese opera have five productions to choose from, including Love River Dream (愛河戀夢) by the Ming Hwa Yuan Arts and Cultural Group (明華園戲劇總團) and Yi Bo Yun Tian (義薄雲天) by the Chun Mei Taiwanese Opera Troupe (春美歌劇團).
Families with young children have six shows to pick from, including The Legend of New Moon (新月傳奇) by the Paper Windmill Theatre Troupe (紙風車劇團), La Belle and La Bete by Le Shlemil Theatre (法國喜樂米劇團) and The Adolescent Na-cha — the Third Prince (三太子哪吒), performed by the Kaohsiung City Ballet (高雄城市芭蕾舞團) and Kaohsiung City Chinese Orchestra (高雄市國樂團).
The Paper Windmill Theatre Troupe will have the honor of being the first production to tread the boards at the yet-to-be-completed Da-Dong Cultural Center (大東文化藝術中心), which will be inaugurated on March 24. The 891-seat theater will be a welcome addition to the city’s roster of cultural venues and will play host to most of the festival’s family-centered productions.
Another group to look out for is Le Shlemil Theatre, a French troupe founded by two students of the great mime artists Marcel Marceau, Cecile Roussat and Julien Lubek. They combine mime, masks and clowning for a surrealistic retelling of the classic La Belle and La Bete (The Beauty and the Beast). The troupe was a hit at last year’s Taipei Children’s Art Festival with its production of Les Ames Nocturnes.