In view of the reopening of performing venues on 19 February, the Hong Kong Arts Festival announces changes to in-venue programmes. Please visit this page for details.

Speech by Mr Douglas Gautier (Executive Director of Hong Kong Arts Festival Society Ltd) at the 2004 Festival Kick-off Press Conference

October 16th, 2003

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to echo our Chairman's welcome and thanks to you all.

I would like to talk briefly about the fiscal details of the 2004 Festival and then a short overview of the wonderful programme that we have brought together for next year.

Our budget for the 2004 Festival is just under $58 million, a little less than last year. We have received a subvention of $17.18 million from Government through the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and a $3.61 million donation from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust. The Festival hopes to raise $10.8 million through sponsorship and donations, and close to $25 million through ticket sales.

The 2004 Festival will offer a total of 110 performances with 36 performing groups - 26 overseas/10 local - with two exhibitions, and an important extra - our inclusive Festival Plus programme of talks, seminars, meet-the-artist sessions and exhibitions.

This year the theme for the Festival is "families" - in the broadest sense of the word and the idea. You will find this theme reflected in the content of the music, theatre and dance programmes, notably in Romeo and Juliet, in Beethoven's only opera Fidelio - a piece about conjugal love, Tokyo Notes - about relationships in modern Japan, and satires on family and money in The Merry Widow as well as A Small Family Business.

At the same time, a number of real families will be performing in the Festival; namely, the guitarists Los Romeros and in our Beijing Opera programmes - three generations of the distinguished Tan family. Indeed the great international ensembles that will join us are themselves artistic families, with long and valued traditions - for example, the Komische Oper Berlin, The China National Beijing-Opera Theater, The Peking Opera House of Beijing and the London Symphony Orchestra.

In world music we will hear performers from Senegal (Orchestra Baobab) and Brazil (Gilberto Gil) with programmes that include music of those countries, plus the Caribbean and Cuba. The cross-influences and synergies are very apparent. The influence of the greater African family on the music of the Americas is astounding and we will hear it in many forms in both jazz (Wayne Shorter, Bobby McFerrin) and world music.

In addition, the music of the "Bach family" runs throughout the Festival and features strongly in the works of the Zurich Ballet and Nacho Duato, as well as the programmes of Angela Hewitt and Europa Galante. While the music of Dvo ak is at the heart of performances by the Prague Chamber Orchestra and the Petersen Quartet.

In visual arts, we will juxtapose the works of the best young Hong Kong and German photographers, who will examine the idea of Home and Homeless - another "family" perspective.

We are also delighted to be able to include three outstanding local performing arts groups in special programmes for the Festival - the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hong Kong Sinfonietta. Audiences can also savour the distinctive 1960s style of the Great Dragon and Phoenix Cantonese Opera Troupe through their signature pieces performed by top Hong Kong artists.

In addition, our commitment to commissioning work from Hong Kong's best creative talents continues, with new works such as Fisher King & Handless Maiden; Flight; The Good, the Bad and Scarlett O'Hara; Recycled; B.O.B.* and VIVA Indie! Concert.

There is much to enjoy and explore in this Festival, so please take a good look at what we have put together for you. We thank you once again for your time and interest in the Festival and your ongoing support. I would now like to hand over to my colleague Ms Grace Lang.

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