Big names to take stage at revamped S'pore arts fest

Big names to take stage at revamped S'pore arts fest
Scott Shepherd and Ari Fliakos starring in a production by New York experimental theatre company The Wooster Group.

Celebrated British composer Michael Nyman and renowned New York experimental theatre company The Wooster Group will bookend the Singapore International Festival of Arts when it launches next year from Aug 12 to Sept 21.

This is a rebooted, edgier version of what was previously known as the Singapore Arts Festival, a three-week event pegged to the May and June school holidays that went on hiatus this year.

Next year's opening and closing acts were revealed by Ms Lee Chor Lin, the chief executive of Arts Festival Limited, and festival director Ong Keng Sen, in their first joint interview since taking the reins of the newly formed independent company behind the festival in July.

The $6.5 million festival has been renamed to signal that it is "both Singaporean and international", said Ong, 49.

Its budget has been allocated by the National Arts Council, and is slightly lower than the $7 million to $8 million budget of previous arts festivals run by the council. The company is expected to raise additional funds. The smaller budget must accommodate set- up costs like rental - an office has not yet been found - and salaries.

Next year's festival will consist of some 12 to 15 international productions with the theme of "legacy and the expanded classic", Ong said. As for Singapore productions, they are now being commissioned for the 2015 festival, "60 per cent of which will probably be local".

The opening production next year is Facing Goya, a new version of Nyman's contemporary opera first staged in 2000. To be directed by Ong, it features five international opera soloists, the Michael Nyman Band and Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and is a co-commission of the festival and the prestigious Spoleto Festival of Charleston in the United States.

Closing the festival is The Wooster Group's new postmodern take on Shakespeare's Troilus And Cressida; it will be the first time the group is performing here. The Michael Nyman Band last played here at the 2002 Singapore Arts Festival.

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