• Zubin Mehta: Photo by Supachat Vetchamaleenont
  • Korean Symphony Orchestra 

Two decades of Western classics

Art November 05, 2018 01:00

By Pawit Mahasarinand
Special to The Nation

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The 20th Festival of Dance and Music created many more fond memories



ORGANISED by International Cultural Promotions, Bangkok’s 20th International Festival of Dance and Music has wrapped up after five weeks of operas, symphony concerts, classical ballets and a few other entertainments, some of which were quite commercial in comparison to the rest. 

And while, as in its previous editions, there were no local works in the entire line-up, it was the Royal Bangkok Symphony Orchestra (RBSO) that accompanied the three performances by the Moscow State Classical Ballet in the first weekend of October. 

As a result, this festival remains the only one of its kind on the planet that doesn’t present any local works. 

The first-week programme was simply the best curtain-raiser ever in the festival’s history of two decades. 

Zubin Mehta: Photo by Supachat Vetchamaleenont

The audience had a special treat in two performances – Teatro di San Carlo’s “Carmen” with Zubin Mehta conducting and two programmes of classical music with the same world-renowned maestro conductor. 

And that’s also truly the highlight of the yearlong Italian Festival in Thailand, which is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the two countries’ diplomatic relations. 

In the very same weekend, Taiwan made a strong case for cultural diplomacy with a percussion concert that bridged West and East, the traditional and the modern. In subsequent weeks, the Western classical spirit continued with memorable performances by the Korean Symphony Orchestra and Hangzhou Philharmonic Orchestra. 

Korean Symphony Orchestra 

The Moscow Classical Ballet was also present for one weekend with works that are rarely seen here, like “Firebird” and “Rite of Spring”, and the opposite, “The Nutcracker”. 

The classical ballet programme then continued with performances by Singapore Dance Theatre and the Karlsruhe Ballet, making its third trip here in less than a decade. 

So this festival was clearly a major showcase of Western classical dance and music. I cannot recall any international performing-arts festival in Asia presenting these many Western classical works before. 

That’s a reason to celebrate, and some audience members who attended all these programmes might not need to watch any more until September 2019, when the festival begins anew.

Michael Jackson Tribute Concert

On the other side of the coin, most of the contemporary counterparts seemed to be more commercial choices chosen to entertain the audience. 

Examples included a magic show titled “The Magnificent Seven”, the Bollywood show “Taj Express” and the rock-legend homage “Michael Jackson Tribute Concert”. Many observers must have wondered why these were part of the same festival as Zubin Mehta. 

It was as if the festival plan, if there was one, was to convince people that the classical always reigns supreme and the contemporary will never be able to match. 

Apart from ICP’s sheer dedication in presenting Western classical works on the grand stage of colonisation-free Thailand, which deserves much applause, Bangkok’s 20th International Festival of Dance and Music had many other helpers. 

These included the Crown Property Bureau, Bangkok Bank, Bangkok Dusit Medical Services, BMW Thailand, B Grimm |Group, Dusit Thani Bangkok, Indorama Ventures, the Ministry of Culture, Nation Group, PTT, Singha Corp, Thai Union Group, Thai Airways International |and the Tourism Authority of Thailand. 

Mark That Calender

Bangkok’s 21st International Festival of Dance and Music is booked for September 9 to October 19, 2019. 

Keep track of developments at www.BangkokFestivals.com.