Cover Colossus. Photo by Mark Gambino.

Here's what you need to know about the 50th Hong Kong Arts Festival next February before the tickets go on sale this December.

The biggest performing arts festival in Hong Kong celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2022. Returning in February, the Hong Kong Arts Festival promises more than just a line-up of live and online international and local performances that range from dance productions and drama to opera and concerts. The upcoming festival will also introduce an interactive opera experience using the latest technology and a new purpose-built venue in Central. The festival team has also launched the #MyHKAFStory campaign, through which the public is invited to share memories of the festival from the past half century.

The complete list of programmes and ticketing information will be revealed in mid-December. For now, here’s a sneak peek of six headline shows not to be missed.

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1. Laila

This ambitious production incorporates artificial intelligence, virtual reality, video-projection mapping, 360-degree spatial sound and real-time sensors to create an interactive opera experience in which visitors can change the sound combinations. It was originally created by Finnish arts and technology specialists the Ekho Collective, composer and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, dramatist Paula Vesala and sound designer Tuomas Norvio for the Finnish National Opera and Ballet.

The company is collaborating with the Hong Kong Arts Festival to bring the production to Hong Kong in its international premiere. The two teams will create a dome-shaped space near the Hong Kong Maritime Museum for this production. The experience will be free but registration is required.

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2. Love Streams

Love Streams is a double-bill that includes two original operas commissioned and produced by the Arts Festival: Heart of Coral in 2013 and Women Like Us in 2020. The show combines dance, music and opera, and recounts the love life of two celebrated Chinese female novelists, Xiao Hong and Xi Xi.

Hong, known for her realistic novels that capture the hopeless prospects of women in modern China, was forced into marriage with a man who later on abandoned her while she was pregnant. Xi, whose writing has been inspired by her many travelling experiences, is a free soul. The two writers’ narratives onstage are reminiscent of a poetic couplet, where the two writers’ love lives mirror one another and highlight the feminist perspectives the two share.

3. Yat-sen

The Cantonese-language musical brings to the stage the volatile early life of Sun Yat-sen, the provisional first president of the Republic of China, who overthrew the Qing Dynasty. It focuses on his transformative schooling in Honolulu and Hong Kong, defining stages of his life before he became a leader of the Xinhai Revolution. The musical is created by established Hong Kong creators, including composer and music director Peter Kam, director Desmond Tang, playwright Sunny Chan and lyricist Chris Shum.

Read more: Actors' Family Brings Cantonese Musicals To New Heights With A Brand New Original, A Tale Of The Southern Sky

4. We Are Gay

Candace Chong, the five-time winner of the Hong Kong Drama Awards for best script, is a long-term collaborator of the Hong Kong Arts Festival, having written The Wild Boar in 2012 and Murder in San José in 2009. In 2019, she teamed up with Tony Wong, winner of best director at the Hong Kong Drama Awards, to perform extensive research in which they interviewed the local gay community for the production We Are Gay.

The story follows two young men, Sheng (played by Yau Hawk-sau), a swim coach, and Philip (played by Leung Chung-hang), an ambitious lawyer, who become romantic partners. As their neighbour Neil (played by Cheung Kam-ching), a successful middle-aged lawyer walks into their life, their situation becomes complicated by suspicion. As the three re-evaluate their personal values, the show foregrounds the complicated human relationships and what it takes to pursue happiness in contemporary society.

5. Colossus

Australian choreographer Stephanie Lake’s show Colossus, which premiered at the Melbourne Fringe Festival in 2018, explores the collective experience with an ambitious ensemble performance. The show features a cast of 50 dancers moving in complex unison to create changing shapes and patterns onstage.

The Hong Kong show will bring together Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts’ dancers, who will be directed Lake via Zoom.

6. A Tribute to Cantonese Opera Legend Sun Ma Sze Tsang

Sun Ma Sze Tsang is one of the most celebrated Cantonese opera singers in the 20th century. Known for singing in an unusually high pitch, he performed at the second and third Hong Kong Arts Festivals in 1974 and 1975. The festival this year will bring back his four most famous works, Emperor Guangxu Paying Homage to Concubine Zhen at Night, The Romantic Emperor, The Golden Bracelet Pair and The Sword of Loyalty. This is the first time these four have been performed together onstage since Sun Ma’s death in 1997. A new generation of Cantonese opera singers will pay tribute to the Cantonese opera master at the festival.

The 50th Hong Kong Arts Festival will be held from February 25, 2022. Tickets will be available for purchase from December 17, 2022. Find out more at hk.artsfestival.org.

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