The Wonders of Time and Effort

On the 30th anniversary of the Macao Arts Festival

In 2019, the Macao Arts Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Over the past 30 years, we have made an extraordinary journey, transforming ourselves from the clichéd “cultural desert” into a significant “cultural Macao”. The Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area establishes our city as an exchange and cooperation base grounded in a solid “Chinese culture as the mainstream, where diverse cultures coexist”, fully recognising our role in history, while clearly establishing the vitality of our forthcoming mission.

The 30th anniversary marks an important transitional point. This year, under the theme “a tribute to the classics”, the Macao Arts Festival presents 22 eclectic programmes, staging nearly 100 performances and various outreach activities. While appreciating the masterpieces, I wish we could keep on cultivating the respect and admiration for the iconic works of yesteryears, so that their long-tempered, timeless imagery may inject us with unfaltering cultural vitality, igniting the creation of novel classics.

This year’s Festival kicks off with the stunning Vertikal, a production assembling the ingenuity of a highly sought-after French choreographer and the dexterity of his hip hop dance company, one of the world’s best. Overcoming the laws of gravity, his ten dancers enchant with ethereal and elegant vertical movements. Belgian dance company Rosaswill “pour” Rain onto Macao this early summer. The dance piece will be re-staged here 18 years after its premiere, emphasising the less-is-more aesthetic with its simple and neat choreography seamlessly conceived into the minimalistic music. Undoubtedly a time-tested classical work awaiting your review. Adapted from the Greek epic,The Odyssey – A wandering journey based on Homer is a brainchild of German theatre director Antú Romero Nunes, focusing on the encounter of the hero’s two sons. Featuring just two actors, the work ignites a contemporary spirit into the classic.

To commemorate the 120th anniversary of Lao She’s birth, the Festival will stage Mr. Ma and Son, a play adapted from his namesake novel. Through a satirical mode, this work of the emblematic Chinese writer illustrates with the expected fine wit and wisdom the cultural differences between two old nations: China and the United Kingdom. We often hear people say “Lao She’s words make me both laugh and cry.” That’s exactly the way I feel too, now that we are about to witness the universal charm of Lao She’s views on civilisational differences. Presenting this meaningful “half Beijing, half London” oeuvre in Macao, a city where East meets West, is a wonderful tribute to the classic and deeply significant.

One of the Festival’s objectives, since its inception 30 years back, was to establish a showcase and an exchange platform for local art groups. At the time, local productions already accounted for half of the shows presented.

For three decades, the Festival never forgot why it started. While focusing on local productions, it has been introducing high-quality performances, enhancing its international influence, enticing exchanges that trigger the growth of local art groups. The constant promotion of local arts development through international exposure is indeed a fine tradition of the Festival.

And this year much more can be anticipated. Programmes fronted by local groups include Ready to Wear, Curry Bone’s Travel 2019, Wonder.Land and Mau Tan, Kat Cheong, all rooted in Macao, addressing current topics with novel perspectives, portraying the urban fabric and spirit of our city. Co-created by a French director, a local theatre group and artists from different parts of Asia, Kaléidoscope takes on personal memories from childhood to adulthood, devising an exploration on land, history and identity. £¥€$ (LIES), a joint production by the Belgian theatre collective Ontroerend Goed and both the Hong Kong and Macao Arts Festivals, will present a thrilling money game in this dazzling Macao, superbly performed by a local and Hong Kong cast. All these works reveal the creative vitality of our homebred talent to conceive new classics. We firmly believe that given enough time and effort, great works will follow.

And yet, the very same classics need to be passed on.

In these 30 years, a generation of audience has matured, and the next one is being nurtured. As this dynamic keeps flowing, we have lined-up an impressive and inspiring young audience and family programmes with the likes of The Inch-high Samurai, Flotante and Goodbye, Little Prince.

2019 marks the 10th anniversary of Cantonese opera’s inscription on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Celebrating the occasion, the Festival is organising a grand finale, staging The Soul of Macao, a special Cantonese opera. Adapted from an original script penned by a local writer, and jointly performed by local actors and a fine cast from the Foshan Cantonese Opera Troupe, this moving performance tells a momentous historical story, unfolding a painting scroll of southern China full of historical vicissitudes. As people say, “watch an opera and you will get to know a city.” The Soul of Macao certainly makes the point!

A classic is not made overnight. Likewise the Macao Arts Festival needs to develop with time. Here, I sincerely invite you to taste the classics, enjoy the fine works and share wonderful moments!


Mok Ian Ian
President of the Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Macao S.A.R. Government