Fill Your Senses

Come June, some of the world’s most spectacular arts performers will make their way into town for the annual Singapore Arts Festival. While renowned talents in the past have included Michael Nyman, Philip Glass, The Royal Ballet and theater maestro Robert Lepage, this year, upcoming and established performers such as guitarist John Williams and the talented dancers from Compagnie Marie Chouinard will gather together for three weeks of artistic innovation and experimentation. Here are our picks from this year’s lineup. Remember, the early bird catches the best seats and prices.
Face the Music
Members of The Vegetable Orchestra (Jun 7-9) from Austria are taking their greens to our sunny island. Ditching the usual musical instruments such as guitars, synthesizers, flutes and trumpets, this cheeky ensemble uses carrots, radishes, cucumbers and kitchen utensils to make music. The concert will aptly end with you sipping vegetable soup (you heard us right). Definitely an innovative one to watch.
One of the world’s leading classical guitarists John Williams (Jun 9), is sharing the limelight with the eminent composer Richard Harvey. Skilled, versatile and much admired, Williams has over 30 years of experience in recording and performing. A famous name on the London music scene, Harvey has also produced soundtracks for movies such as An Awfully Big Adventure and Arabian Nights. For a night of evocative film and guitar music, this is the one to catch.
Vocalist Victoria Hanna (Jun 15-16) sings ancient music in a modern context and is much loved for her cross genre shows. This time, she works with the distinguished Israeli Contemporary String Quartet, singers from Mongolia and Germany, and an Arab oud player, to bring you a crowded stage, as well as a performance filled with haunting music. Listen out for the number “The Jerusalem Dream,” that is based on the Hebrew text “Song of Songs.”
If you dig rich and lush classical music, the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra (Jun 21-22) might just be your thing. This eminent Norwegian export isn’t a stranger to standing ovations and is going to woo you with its exuberant renditions of classical pieces from Beethoven, Kverndokk, Svendsen and more.
Dance Away
We are looking forward to Quest (Jun 1-3)—a triple bill collaboration between Singapore Dance Theatre and the Singapore Chinese Orchestra. It is Singapore’s first dance performed to the melodies of a Chinese orchestra, and features big names such as composers Tan Dun (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Tang Jian Ping. Talented dance choreographers Kim Eun Hee, Gao Yan Jin Zi and Jeffery Tan are also involved in this production.
The Canadian performers of Compagnie Marie Chouinard (Jun 15-16) don’t seem to be satisfied with having just a pair of hands and feet each. Using harnesses and artificial body parts, they’ll offer a fascinating double bill that explores the theme of transcendence, and contains nude scenes (artistic, of course). An innovative dance that makes us wonder what we can achieve if we had more limbs and muscles.
For awesome neo-classical and contemporary dance, don’t miss the triple bill Bella Figura (Jun 20-21). Brought to you by Nederlands Dans Theater I, this world class show features the works of acclaimed choreographers Jirí Kylián, Lightfoot León and Johan Inger.
“Potent,” “complex” and “energetic” are keywords to describe the dance Rain (Jun 23-24) by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s Belgian company, Rosas. Set against the mesmerizing music of avant-garde music composer Steve Reich, the performers flaunt their sensuous and agile moves. Definitely a hypnotizing dance to lose yourself in.
Mama Drama
This year’s festival will also feature compelling theatrical performances. For something introspective, catch Samovar: Check Out Chekov Through Comics (Jun 3-4) by Austrian theater group Schauspielhaus Vienna. Fusing caricatures and comic drawings of playwright Anton Chekov with creative use of sight and sound, this tragic comic-drama unfolds before our eyes.
Memories of a Geisha has many going gaga over the Japanese female entertainers, and the hype doesn’t seem to be over just yet. The theatrical performance Geisha (Jun 9-10) by local theater company TheatreWorks consists of poignant tales about geishas, maikos, their clients and families. Directed by the controversial Ong Keng Sen (Lear, Desdemona), it stars New York-based performer Karen Kandel and female impersonator Gojo Masanosuke, with the support of electronic wizard Toru Yamanaka from Japan’s dance collective Dumb Type.
If you are an avid gamer of war games such as Call of Duty and Counterstrike, don’t miss The Great War (Jun 16-17). This play, staged by The Netherlands’ Hotel Modern, revolves around the series of events a youthful combatant faces in World War I. Think mud, blood, smoke bombs and lots of male-bonding in this powerfully poignant piece.
For a heavy dose of adrenalin, don’t miss the thriller Phobia (Jun 21-24). Its inspiration is drawn from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (which we totally dig) and has riveting sound effects to send tingles down your spine. Spun with mystery and intrigue, this eerie play, speckled with drops of comical elements, will rivet from start to finish.
With such a compelling lineup of concerts, dance and theatrical performances, you just can’t blame us for getting excited about the Singapore Arts Festival months in advance. Mark your calendar, now.