Bangkok’s yearly International Festival of Dance & Music celebrates HRH Princess Mahachakri Sirindhorn’s 60th birthday this year with an array of opera, ballet, symphony orchestra, jazz, and contemporary dance. Now in its 17th year, the festival is one of the longest running cultural events of its kind in the region.
More than 11 countries will take part this year, including new faces from China, Uruguay, and the Czech Republic. In fact, a Chinese opera will open the cultural extravaganza on Friday, September 11, a unique and exciting moment for fans and organizers of the festival, with a show called “Butterfly Lovers.”
“Butterfly Lovers” is a famed folk-tale of China, enacted by the country’s best-known female opera group, the Zhejiang Xiaobaihua YueOpera Troupe, who were voted “Best Opera Company of China” in 2015. Their lead star, Mao Wei Tao, is considered one of the top opera singers in the country.
In keeping with the festival’s long tradition of promoting Russian culture, there are two grand Russian operas, performed by the Samara Opera&BalletTheatre. They will put together two mega productions, both involving more than 150 performers—the well-known “Tosca,” set to the marvellous music of Puccini, and “PrinceIgor,” with music by Alexander Borodin. The music for the two operas will be conducted by Golden Mask winner Alexander Annissimov of the Samara State Symphony Orchestra.
The orchestra will also hold a separate evening of music in which they will play a range of classical favourites, including Beethoven’s “Symphony No.9” and Tchaikovsky’s“Fantasy Overture Romeo and Juliet.” They will be accompanied by an excellent chorus of singers.
Anothercan’t-miss show comes by way of a legendary ensemble from the Czech Republic, the Prague Symphony Orchestra. Their violinist, Vadim Repin, ranks among the world’s best.
There will also be a medley of ballet productions. The Novosibirsk Ballet troupe, one of the top companies in Russia, will perform their spectacular version of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” Their second show, the award-winning “La Bayadere,”isset in exotic India. A third ballet, “Gala Classical Concert,”will run through sequences from famous ballets, like “Paquita,” Carmen,” and “Le Corsaire.”
Ballet fans shouldn’t skip the Gala Performance of the National Ballet of Uruguay, one of the oldest and largest companies in Latin America, who will exhibit their wide and exciting repertoire of compositions.
A slightly different show is “Sleeping Beauty on Ice,” performed by the world-famousImperial Ice Stars, whose high-speed lifts and awe-inspiring gymnastics have earned the troupe fame across the world.
The Festival has always had a mix of old and new forms. And so, this year, organizers have put together tribute concerts to three contemporary musicians.
The first, The Fame Monster,is a tribute to the ever-popular Lady Gaga. Her act is summoned up by Dale Lapointe, who accompanied the diva on her last tour. The show has all the special effects, elaborate costumes, and energetic choreography associated with the superstar, and, in fact, is so authentic that Universal Music hired the group behind it to promote Lady Gaga’s latest album, ARTPOP.
The second is a Tribute to the Blues Brothers, the legendary Jake and Elwood Blues. All their most famous songs are played out in this spectacular production, which has run for more than two decades.
The last, Return to Grace,sees Steve Michaels channelling the late, great Elvis Presley as the singer brilliantly belts out more than 30 Elvis hits.
There are three contemporary dance-troupes partaking in the Festival, this year, too. The first is a fresh take on “Cinderella” by the French company Malandain Ballet Biarritz. The second is “Alice,” a modern interpretation of “Alice in Wonderland” by the dynamic Gauthier Dance Company of Germany.
The varied dance forms at the festival also include tango from Argentina and flamenco from Spain, which have proved to be highly popular with Bangkok- audiences.
A bunch of award-winning tango dancers from Argentina, including 2014 Tango World Champions, will speak to the history of this sensual dance in “Tango Legends” while Spain’s foremost flamenco company, Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia, celebrates its 20th year with “Images-20 Years,” a scintillating collection of its best productions under Director Rafaela Carrasco.
The Festival concludes with “Mix”by Brazil’s famed Deborah Colker Dance Company, renowned for their physical blend of gymnastics, acrobatics, and pure dance.
Needless to say, this riveting, three-act dance-production should close this year’s International Festival of Dance and Music on a high note.