Head for star acts at inaugural Singapore International Festival of Arts from Aug 12 to Sept 13

Robert Wilson directs Peter Pan with a surreal twist -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LUCIE JANSCH
Robert Wilson directs Peter Pan with a surreal twist -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LUCIE JANSCHPHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & L
Get a bird's eye view of immigration issues Amid The Clouds -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LUCIE
Get a bird's eye view of immigration issues Amid The Clouds -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LUCIE JANSCHPHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & L
Get a crash course in 20th-century tunes -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LUCIE JANSCH
Get a crash course in 20th-century tunes -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LUCIE JANSCHPHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & L
Standing up against rape and repression through performance -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LUCIE
Standing up against rape and repression through performance -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LUCIE JANSCHPHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & L
Martha Graham comes back to life with the help of Richard Move -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LU
Martha Graham comes back to life with the help of Richard Move -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LUCIE JANSCHPHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & L
The Greek tragedy of Oedipus gets a musical makeover -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LUCIE JANSCH
The Greek tragedy of Oedipus gets a musical makeover -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LUCIE JANSCHPHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & L
Nikhil Chopra -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LUCIE JANSCH
Nikhil Chopra -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LUCIE JANSCHPHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & L
Margaret Leng Tan -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LUCIE JANSCH
Margaret Leng Tan -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LUCIE JANSCHPHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & L
Theatre redefined with visual art -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LUCIE JANSCH
Theatre redefined with visual art -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LUCIE JANSCHPHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & L
Get into the science of opera -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LUCIE JANSCH
Get into the science of opera -- PHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & LAL AND NIKHIL CHOPRA, JEAN BLASCO, CLAUDIA VYE, JOSEF ASTOR, ABAS KOSARI, LUCIE JANSCHPHOTOS: JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY, REINOUT HIEL, MICHAEL DAMES, LG ARTS CENTER & JD WOO, CHATTERJEE & L

The inaugural Singapore International Festival of Arts kicks off next month. Here are 10 reasons you should catch it.

1 Get into the science of opera

An opera about the pitfalls of using science to sculpt a better society, Facing Goya is a bold curtain-raiser to the festival.

Written by famous film composer Michael Nyman (who was behind the soundtrack for the acclaimed 1993 film The Piano) and librettist Victoria Hardie, this 14-year-old opera was revived by Singapore International Festival of Arts director Ong Keng Sen at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston in May.

American reviewers loved the music while puzzling over the plot, which has few of the lurid entanglements or plot twists favoured by traditional opera. Instead, an Art Banker (played by Suzanna Guzman) is determined to clone and revive her favourite artist, Spanish painter Francisco Goya. The opera also presents misused science through the ages, from the belief that people should be judged by the size of their brains to Hitler's genocidal drive to populate the world with blond beings.

This is a work of art perfect for Singapore, which positions itself as a hub for biotechnology and genetic engineering. The science may be outdated but the ideas and ethical issues involved are still fresh and worthy of debate. Best of all, expect to exit the theatre humming the tunes.

Where: Victoria Theatre

When: Aug 12, 14 and 16, 8pm

Admission: $40 to $120 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)


2 Theatre redefined with visual art

Theatre, as one knows it, is upended in Mystery Magnet, a vivid, giddy performance by Belgian artist Miet Warlop. With roots in the visual arts and an eye for arresting images, Warlop deftly turns visual compositions into live, animated sequences. The result: an imaginative production that is both theatrical and visually striking.

Her procession of wordless tableaux conjures an uncanny universe, dressed in bubblegum pop colours and populated with fantastical characters and whimsical sculptures. As the scenes unfold in free-wheeling fashion, surprises pop up and dark humour abounds.

Where: School of the Arts Studio Theatre, 1 Zubir Said Drive

When: Aug 14 to 16, 8pm

Admission: $35 from Sistic


3 A sneak peek at what has been commissioned for next year's festival

The event celebrates Singapore's Golden Jubilee next year as it explores the country's relationships with the past and present. There will be a sneak preview of next year's edition with a taster of specially commissioned home-grown works.

Singapore-born musician Margaret Leng Tan will lead this unveiling of new work with two recitals featuring her mastery of the toy piano and avant-garde music.

Her first performance on Aug 15, Cage-Kaprow-Fluxus, will introduce iconic works by composer John Cage. Her second, Clangor!, will be performed entirely on toy instruments, including bicycle bells.

Margaret Leng Tan's Showcase

Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

When: Aug 15 (Cage-Kaprow- Fluxus), Aug 16 (Clangor!), 9pm

Sneak Preview Of Singapore Projects

Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

When: Aug 16 and 17

Admission: Admission is free to both the recitals and the sneak preview but registration is required (on a first-come-first-served basis). Go to the Singapore International Festival of Arts website (www.sifa.sg) for updates closer to the date.


4 Test the limits in a 50-hour performance

Indian performance artist Nikhil Chopra has been wowing international audiences with his cutting-edge performance art pieces. At the Dhaka Art Summit in February, among the most impressive works was his eight-hour performance art piece titled Blackening. Like much of his past work, it blended elements of performance, live art, theatre, sculpture, painting and drawing.

In Singapore, Chopra presents a 50-hour durational performance, evoking India's fight for freedom against colonial rule in a sprawling piece titled Give Me Your Blood And I Will Give You Freedom. He will map out stark landscapes of black ink on a white canvas, which are intended to be a metaphor for a dark and bloody battle for freedom.

Even if you do not have the patience to stay the full course, Chopra's often politically charged work has a way of drawing you in. While audience members are free to come and go throughout this new work - which is a festival commission - chances are you may end up staying longer than you intended.

Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

When: Aug 15 to 17

Admission: $35 from Sistic


5 The Greek tragedy of Oedipus gets a musical makeover

Killing your father and marrying your mother may not sound like Broadway musical material, but South Korean director Seo Jae-Hyung has reinvention on his mind.

In his take on Sophocles' timeless Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex - where the titular Oedipus does the aforementioned dirty deeds - Seo puts the Greek chorus at the fore of the action, drawing from the Broadway tradition and incorporating several live pianos into the mix.

This trend of giving 2,500-year-old Greek tragedy a contemporary spin has proven to be a hit in South Korea. This 2012 production was performed to sell-out crowds in Seoul, featuring a script and lyrics by playwright Han Areum and music by composer Choe Uzong. Performed in Korean with English surtitles.

Where: Victoria Theatre

When: Aug 21 to 23, 8pm

Admission: $45 from Sistic


6 Martha Graham comes back to life with the help of Richard Move

American modern dance legend and pioneer Martha Graham may be long gone - she died in 1991 - but her soul lives on in dancer- choreographer Richard Move, who has channelled Graham on stage for nearly 20 years to critical acclaim.

Move received a call from the 92nd Street Y, a cultural institution and community centre in Manhattan, when its archivist found an audio recording of Graham's 1963 interview with the dance critic Walter Terry. Move was the first person it contacted, "because they knew I would be fascinated by it", he says. "She was going to be 69 years old and she was about to 'die' her first 'death', when she could no longer dance. There's a very intense underlying tension."

He will be re-creating this 1963 interview with actress Lisa Kron, also in drag, who will play the critic Walter Terry.

Where: School of the Arts Drama Theatre, 1 Zubir Said Drive

When: Aug 21 to 23, 8pm

Admission: $30 to $50 from Sistic


7 Standing up against rape and repression through performance

While women across the world are gaining new rights and new freedoms, the threat of horrific sexual violence and repression still continues to loom large.

In what promises to be a haunting and moving double-bill, South African performer and choreographer Mamela Nyamza (right) collaborates with British-Nigerian writer and performer Mojisola Adebayo to question the large issues of identity, gender and social freedoms that confront South Africa today.

Through a mix of physical theatre, song, dance, drama and music, the two practitioners will stitch together a narrative that opposes the spread of "corrective rape" (a hate crime in which people are raped in a brutal attempt to alter their sexual orientation) and also explores one's place in the world.

Where: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

When: Aug 28 to 30, 8pm

Admission: $45 from Sistic

Info: Mature theme (18 years and above)


8 Get a crash course in 20th-century tunes

Few concert series are as ambitious as this: London's Southbank Centre and London Sinfonietta condense a century of music into four performances. Pre-show talks add to the exciting line-up for every show, performed also by the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Orchestra from Singapore.

The series begins on Sept 3, with Early Modernism And The Jazz Age. Showcased here are composers from the late 19th and early 20th century such as Debussy and Stravinsky.

Next is The Age Of Fear on Sept 5, featuring Prokofiev and Shostakovich, mid- to late-20th-century composers who were censored by the Soviet regime.

The third concert on Sept 6, Post-War Directions, is a must-attend. The musically varied three-hour programme highlights different trends such as the avante-garde, spirituality and minimalism, through the works of composers such as John Cage, Arvo Part and Terry Riley.

The series concludes on Sept 7 with No More Rules and the subtle and sparkling works of the late Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu and contemporary South Korean composer Unsuk Chin, among others. Tune in to hear old favourites and be introduced to new voices as well.

Where: School of the Arts Concert Hall, 1 Zubir Said Drive

When: Sept 3 and 5, 8pm; Sept 6, 6pm; Sept 7, 3pm

Admission: $40 to $80 (Sept 3, 5 and 7); $60 to $100 (Sept 6) from Sistic

Info: Go to www.sifa.sg for details of pre-show talks


9 Get a bird's eye view of immigration issues Amid The Clouds

As the world's borders grow increasingly porous, so does the number of displaced people travelling from country to country in search of a home.

Thirty-six-year-old Iranian playwright Amir Reza Koohestani follows two asylum seekers forced to flee their home: a young, pregnant woman named Zina, who dreams of living in England with her unborn child; and Inour, a young man deeply affected by the atrocities of war. They meet on the way to their "promised land" and forge a delicate bond as they make their difficult journey.

Koohestani draws from the Persian narrative tradition as well as the harsh realities of refugee camps as he weaves together a story of hope and survival.

Where: School of the Arts Studio Theatre

When: Sept 11 to 13, 8pm

Admission: $35 from Sistic


10 Robert Wilson directs Peter Pan with a surreal twist

The Berliner Ensemble, founded by theatre icon Bertolt Brecht himself, will be gracing Asia for the first time with its rendition of J.M. Barrie's beloved Peter Pan, with avant-garde American director Robert Wilson at the helm.

Expect the familiar story to have more of a "Tim Burton feel", as described by festival director Ong Keng Sen, with a titular character more similar to cult musician David Bowie than a winged cherub. This surreal visit to Neverland, which promises lush and haunting images, will be accompanied by music from the inventive CocoRosie sisters, an experimental American "freak folk" band.

Where: Drama Centre Theatre. 100 Victoria Street

When: Sept 11 to 13, 8pm

Admission: $40 to $120 from Sistic

Info: Performed in English and German with English surtitles

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