This month the 19th International Festival of Dance & Music presents arresting ballet productions, a symphony orchestra, and a Broadway musical classic
The 19th International Festival of Dance and Music continues this month with three unique and arresting cultural programs coming to Bangkok.
First up is Beauty and the Beast by the French contemporary ballet company Malandain Ballet Biarritz, which is being performed for one night only on Monday October 2nd. Founded in 1998 by the great choreographer Thierry Malandain, this company is today considered one of the best in the world, having given nearly 100 performances worldwide. Beauty and the Beast is one of their sensational new productions and has played to rave reviews in many countries, including the US.
This ballet-drama epitomizes the supreme creative and intellectual skills of the choreographer, himself described as “a scholar-creator who knows music and ballet history by heart, and composes a wordless dance”. This take on the classic fairy tale is a highly symbolic, almost intellectual, version, where the Beast seems to be battling with a dual personality and wrestling with his inner demons. He represents the animal within, while the Beauty represents the human within. Needless to say they have a lot of clashes before they finally find peace with each other.
Malandain’s productions are noted for their energetic movements, elegant costumes, symbolic props, sets, and lighting, and in this production he revels in all of them. The beast wears a ‘mask’ to cover his duality, and when he removes it there is shining sunlight all around (compared to the suffused lighting earlier). Meanwhile, Tchaikovsky’s magnificent music, of course, is the linchpin of the whole drama.
Vanessa Silvy, Cultural Attaché of the French Embassy, stated that she was proud to bring this new and exciting ballet production, from one of the top French contemporary ballet companies in the world, to Thai audiences.
The second program in October is the biggest and best-known show at the Festival—the Broadway musical West Side Story. It’s a production noted for its passion, romance, high drama, and high-voltage energy, and it is considered to be the number 1 American musical of all time. There have been many versions of the musical, but this one will be especially riveting as it retains the original choreography of Jerome Robbins. The other world-famous names involved—Leonard Bernstein who wrote the music, Stephen Sondheim who wrote the lyrics, and Arthur Laurents who wrote the book—all contribute to the musical’s enduring popularity around the globe. Songs like “Maria”, “Tonight”, “Somewhere”, “America”, and “I Feel Pretty” are sure to have audiences up on their feet.
The story is a modern Romeo and Juliet tale, except that the two warring families of Verona in Shakespeare’s drama are replaced by two warring street gangs in 1950s New York. The stage-musical was a huge hit, and when the 1961 movie version went on to win 10 Academy awards. The production coming to Bangkok has a large mixed cast of stars from around America.
“We are proud to bring one of our best American stage productions to Thailand!” remarked Jillian Bonnardeaux, new spokesperson of the US Embassy. “Not everyone can go to Broadway, that’s why we’ve brought Broadway to Bangkok!”
According to her, the story of West Side Story is even more relevant today, as it is about love and peace conquering fights and conflicts. “This production is ideal to encourage people-to-people relationships,” she added. “And that’s why we are happy to present it to the Thai audiences.”
In fact, Bangkok is part of a big global tour for this Broadway production, which also includes stops in Europe, Australia, Asia. There’s no doubt that the musical will reach out to diverse audiences in all these countries, both for its arresting subject and its high artistic values. West Side Story will be staged over the course of four days, from October 5th to October 8th, with two extra matinee shows on the weekend of October 7-8.
The only purely musical concert this month, on Friday October 14th, features a very special orchestra whom we have not heard before in Bangkok, namely the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra. The famed orchestra was founded in 1940, and today performs at least 50 concerts a year all around the world, performing in top music halls around the world. For their Bangkok debut, Lithuania’s best-known orchestra will be conducted by Modestas Pitrenas and will play a wonderful repertoire of music—from Bach, to Liszt, to Greig.
The last programme of the festival is Shakespeare’s raucous comedy Taming of the Shrew, presented in ballet-form, by Germany’s world-famous Stuttgart Ballet Company, on October 18th and 19th. The Stuttgart Ballet is a favourite among Thai audiences, having performed regularly at this festival.
The famous Shakespearean romantic comedy, about the “taming” of the boisterous Katherine by the mercurial Petruchio, is expected to entertain both young and old with its physical antics, fun elements, grand sets, wonderful costumes, and energetic music. According to German Ambassador HE Peter Prugel, “Taming of the Shrew, with its colourful scenery and costumes, and joyful stirring music by Domenico Scarlatti, orchestrated by Kurt-Heinz Stolze, is the perfect ballet for the whole family!”
It’s definitely the perfect show to end the 19th edition of Bangkok’s International Festival of Dance and Music, which this year offers a rich and varied selection for diverse audiences of all ages.
The 19th International Festival of Dance & Music is on at The Thailand Cultural Centre (Main Hall), until October 19th. All shows begin at 7:30pm unless otherwise noted. For more information, call 02 247 0028, or visit www.bangkokfestivals.com. To order tickets online visit: www.thaiticketmajor.com
By Lekha Shankar