Bangkok’s 19th International Festival of Dance & Music runs from September 11th to October 19th
The country’s biggest cultural festival unfurls this month with yet another scintillating repertoire of music, dance, and other extraordinary events from around the world. Yes, we are talking of Bangkok’s International Festival of Dance & Music—now in its 19th year and rapidly gaining mega audiences.
“I hope Bangkok is soon ranked on par with other cultural capitals of the world,” Mr. J.S. Uberoi, Chairman of the organizing International Cultural Promotions Ltd, stated with pride.
The first of the festival’s cultural extravaganzas this month is a splendid array of ballets from Russia, performed by the Ekaterinburg Ballet & Opera Theatre troupe, who this year won the ‘Golden Mask Award’—the title for the best ballet-group in the country. And it’s not a coincidence that the best ballet group in Russia is performing at Bangkok’s best cultural festival, as this year marks the celebratory 120th year of diplomatic relations between Russia and Thailand.
The opening ballet, on Monday September 11th, is a world-premiere. Entitled Katya and The Prince of Siam, it was specially commissioned for this year’s festival. It’s based on a memorable, real-life romance between a beautiful Russian girl Katya and a gorgeous Thai Prince… none other than HRH Prince Chakrabongse, son of King Rama V (see sidebar).
The Ekaterinburg Ballet & Opera will also perform another spectacular ballet, namely the ever-popular Cinderella, with the magnificent music of Sergei Prokofiev, which will be staged on Wednesday September 13th. Apart from the dazzling sets, costumes, and stage design, a highlight of this unique production is the amalgam of old and new forms. Many sequences have modern settings, costumes, dance movements, and the Prince has an interesting new-age look!
For lovers of classical dance it’s welcome news that two more grandiloquent Russian ballets will be staged at the festival, by yet another world-famous Russian ballet troupe—the Bashkir State Opera and Theatre. This company, noted for its strong adherence to classical traditions, is where the all-time great Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev started his career. They will be performing Spartacus on Friday September 15th, and Le Corsaire on Sunday September 17th.
Both these productions have been choreographed by the world-famous Yuri Grigorovich—who worked with the Bolshoi Ballet for 30 years—and are grandiose productions in the best classical sense. After all, both stories have historical subjects, strong themes, and plenty of dramatic action. Spartacus is based on the famous Greek legend about the slave who revolts against his Roman masters. By contrast, Le Corsaire is based on a love poem by the famous poet Lord Byron, about the pirate who falls in love with a Greek woman, belonging to a pasha’s harem. The Middle Eastern costumes and music are as striking as the iconic dance sequences in this drama, that have gained a unique place in classical ballet (the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux being the best example).
Totally different is the next event on the September programme, which is a ‘first’ for the festival—a performance by the Flying Superkids of Denmark on Tuesday September 19th. A delightful event, suitable for the whole family, this show has youngsters of different ages performing marvelously on stage, running the gamut of singers, dancers, acrobats, and gymnasts. Launched by a well-known Danish gymnast back in 1967, with just 20 kids, the group now has 400 members and their high-voltage onstage antics have knocked out audiences around the world.
Flamenco has always been very popular at this Festival, and this year there are two dazzling flamenco shows by the Antonio Andrade Flamenco Company from Andalucia, which is the heartland of flamenco in Spain. On Friday September 22nd get set for Torera, the latest production of this group, which is an ambitious, symbolical drama that deals with the conflicting emotions in human beings. Famed dancer Ursula Moreno enacts the conflicted woman, who gracefully moves in harmony with the image of a bull—which is the revered image of Andalucia. Then, on Saturday September 23rd, George Bizet’s Carmen—which has been a favourite at the festival, and been performed many times—gets a flamenco kickstart. This production is quite different than what you might be used to, as it incorporates jazz, salsa, and Arabian elements in a sensational version of this memorable tale.
Chinese performers have been creating waves at the festival in the past, and this year Bangkok audience will be treated to the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, performing on Sunday September 24th. This is one of the top five orchestras in a country that has at least 100 top orchestras, and the ensemble has, in the past, collaborated with world-famous musicians such as Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras, Yo Yo Ma, and Isaac Stern. Their programme at the festival will include the marvelous rhythms of Bernstein and Dvorak. In addition, the orchestra will introduce to Bangkok audiences one of the most talked about Chinese violinists of today, Lu Siqing.
The last show in September will indeed be a magical one, as the world-famous Swiss illusionist Peter Marvey brings his ‘WOW! World of Wonders’, to town for two eye-popping evenings—Friday the 28th and Saturday the 29th. Marvey, who has won top international prizes, like the Merlin Award and the Magic Wand Award, has wowed audiences in more than 50 countries around the world. This month he will unleash a brand-new and breath-taking show in Bangkok, which includes magic carpets, fire balls, genie wands, and flying carriages. To quote Swiss Ambassador HE Ivo Sieber, “Bangkok audiences should be prepared for magic without limits!”
The same can be said about this year’s festival, in fact, which promises “entertainment without limits”. Watch out for coverage of the festival’s October programme in next month’s issue of Bangkok 101.
The 19th International Festival of Dance & Music is on at The Thailand Cultural Centre (Main Hall), from September 11th to October 19th. All shows begin at 7:30pm. For more information, call 02 247 0028, or visit www.bangkokfestivals.com.
Order tickets online at: www.thaiticketmajor.com
World Premiere Ballet
The opening performance at Bangkok’s 19th International Festival of Dance & Music will be Katya and the Prince of Siam, a ballet specially commissioned for the festival in celebration of the 120th year of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Russia. It deals with the real-life love story of HRH Prince Chakrabongse and a lovely Russian girl Katya, which, in fact, was the basis of a much-read book by the same name (written by the Prince’s granddaughter Narisa Chakrabongse).
Prince Chakrabongse was sent by his father, King Rama V, to serve in the elite ‘Page Corps’ of Russia, which brought the royal families of both countries very close to each other. In Russia, the handsome Prince was invited to several parties, and at a ball in St. Petersburg, he met and fell in love with Katya, a beautiful girl from Kiev. Their romance, however, was interrupted by World War I, when Katya signed up as a nurse. The Thai Prince was filled with tension, but she returned safely, whereupon he married her and took her to his homeland. At first, she was considered an outsider in Siam, but Katya gradually became loved and respected by the people of the Thai kingdom.
The ballet is studded with grand sets and costumes, and the masterful choreography is by the famed choreographer Vasily Medvedev of the Bolshoi Ballet. The wonderful music has been conducted by another well-known Bolshoi artiste, Mikhail Granovski, but it’s the riveting love story that will most likely captivate Bangkok audiences.
To quote J.S. Uberoi, Chairman of the organizing International Cultural Promotions Ltd, “The story of Katya and The Prince of Siam—a world premiere—is essentially a love story between a young couple, and the dancing speaks of their love as they bridge their cultural divide.”
The “cultural divide” can be seen as “cultural richness” in this production, which has a dazzling amalgam of both Thai and Russian costumes, musical rhythms, and dance forms.
It is indeed, a perfect ballet to launch this year’s festival, and to celebrate the longstanding diplomatic ties between Thailand and Russia.