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Macao Arts Festival to take local talent to public spotlight

by Natalie Leung
The 20th Macao Arts Festival (MAF) will be presented to locals and tourists with the longest programs line-up list it has ever had between May 2 and May 30 this year.
The annual festival, which costs 15 million patacas, will offer 29 programs and more than 70 shows from puppet theatre, animation and comedy to Chinese opera, multimedia performance and dance.
Heidi Ho Lai Chun, the president of the Cultural Affairs Bureau (ICM), told reporters after the press conference at Dom Pedro V Theatre that this year's budget is topped up by 5.5 million patacas from 2008, when there were only 17 programs scheduled for the arts festival.
The expansion of the festival, according to Ms Ho, is to further enrich the "joyful atmosphere" all-year-round in Macau for the forthcoming 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China as well as the 10th anniversary of Macau's sovereignty transfer to China.
"The programs comprise of tradition and innovation in terms of subjects, forms and styles, in order to attract more people who may not usually have much contact with the arts scene to come experience what the festival has to offer," Ms Ho said.
"At the same time, our fans [loyal audience] will also be amused by finding eye-opening and exploratory performances," she added.
One of the highlights during this year's arts festival will be the presence of the Macao Folk Arts Association which is set to perform Guangdong Folk Song, one of China's intangible cultural heritage renowned for its buoyant vitality and elegant rhythm.
The ICM chief said one of the aims of the 20th MAF is to push forward the promotion of intangible cultural heritage in Macau.
Titled "One Century of Guangdong Folk Song", the assortment of original styles, ranging from Cantonese narrative singing to Naam Yam and Cantonese opera, are all to be performed against the backdrop of Lou Lim Ieoc Garden on May 23 and 24.
In a clear show of support for Macau talent, Macau artists continue to be given the opportunity to debut works reflecting the territory's own performing arts scene.
Macau-born composer Lam Bun-ching's contemporary opera, "Wenji: Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute", incorporating influences of Chinese Beijing opera to contemporary western music, is based on a true story of poet and musician Cai Wenji from the Han Dynasty.
The local professional orchestras will also play a significant role in the programs, beginning on May 8 with the concert " The Macao Orchestra and Cho-liang Lin" at the Cultural Centre.
The orchestra will then appear in the festival again for its Chamber Music Series, "Romantic Evening", on May 17 at Dom Pedro V Theatre.
Meanwhile, The Macao Chinese Orchestra will be featured in three different concerts, namely "Traditional Music Sceneries I/II" with the presence of French animation artist David Myriam, and also "Chimeras" featuring four Macau premieres and conducted by Pang Ka Peng.
On May 16 and 17,  Dóci Papiaçám di Macau, the Macanese Patois drama group led by Miguel de Senna Fernandes, will perform "Letrado Chapado (Right, Mr. Counsellor)" which is to pose a question of "what does it really mean to be a lawyer?".
The showcase of local talent continues on May 23 with "Melodies of Youth 2009" being presented by students of the Macao Conservatory School of Music, including winners of the Macau Young Musicians Competition.
Then there is also the Macao Fringe Club's "Sunrise by Cao Yu" and Theatre Farmers' "Rhinocéros by Eugène Ionesco".
International theatre certainly will not be missed out in the festival.
The 20th Macao Arts Festival will be open with a Sadler's Wells London production "Sutra", a brand new dance work inspired by the skill, strength and spirituality of Buddhist Shaolin monks, to be presented by Flemish/Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
When it comes to family favourite, a puppet theatre will no doubt bring laughters to both grown-ups and children.
Between May 15 and 17, the Lou Kau Mansion will host the Bonecos de Santo Aleixo from Portugal which is to perform "The Story of the Creation of the World" and "The Story of the Birth of Jesus".
The Spanish puppet theatre group El Retablo will also present "Animales", a concert of small histories concerning the animal world on May 23 and 24.
Comedic theatre is as well featured in the festival with Ennio Marchetto,  a world renowned and awarded Italian comedian who has created his own theatrical language mixing mime, dance, music and quick change costumes made out of cardboard and paper.
The Festival also offers multidisciplinary performances. Canadian company L’Arsenal à Musique presents "L’Arche" that employs music, projections and performance to celebrate life and take a critical look at the delicate between humans and nature.
 Davy and Kristin McGuire, a couple from respectively the UK and Germany, will present "Silent Movie" which is a multimedia show that mixes projections and live acting and is viewed by audience through holes made in the front wall of a huge wooden box.
Dance rivals music is also one of the components of this year's MAF.
Portuguese contemporary dance company Quorum Ballet will perform "Impacto", a piece about how human beings are changing in the modern world and how that world affects their identity.
Complimenting the indoor performances will be the "Outdoor Performing Arts Showcase", taking place between May 15 and 17 from 6pm to 10pm at Iao Hon Garden.
It will bring together international and Chinese artists who will present a marathon of performances falling just outside the mainstream, including Chrome from Australia, Jamie Adkins from Canada and Urbano Drums from Portugal, in addition to The Macao Conservatory Drama School as well s local and mainland China Cantonese opera performers and musicians.
A total of 18,000 tickets for the 20th MAF will be up for sales starting at 10am on March 29 at all Kong Seng ticketing outlets.