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Cultural fiesta at Bangkok



"Romeo and Juliet"... breathtaking ballet.

BANGKOK'S BIGGEST cultural fiesta, the month-long International Festival of Dance and Music, opens in the city this month, with a rich profusion of Western music and dance forms, including opera, ballet, jazz and symphony.

Sponsored by International Cultural Promotions and led by J. K. Oberoi, the Thai-Indian publishing magnate who runs the Media Transasia group (`Swagat, Discover India'), the festival is into its fifth year.

"We started with 11 programs in 1999, and now we have as many as 21 programs," stated Egasith Chotpakditrakul, president of Media Transasia. According to him, the aim of the event had always been `The best International Cultural Festival in Asia'.

Bangkok's International Festival had an Indian dance group, the Kathak Kala Kendra, at its inaugural year, but it's been a grand proliferation of Western artistes since then, including the top ballet troupes of Russia and the best of opera, jazz and modern music-dance groups from around the world.

This year's festival has a record three ballet productions, performed by the legendary Moscow State Classical Ballet — Tchaikovsky's `Nut Cracker Ballet', Prokofiev's `Romeo and Juliet' and Minkus' `Don Quixote'. As usual, there would be extravagant sets and spectacular costumes, judging by the four 40-feet containers that are already on their way to Thailand.



"Nut Cracker"... spectacular costumes.

The Chief music conductor will be Robert Luther who is musical director of the American Opera Music Theatre and Permanent Guest Conductor of the American Ballet Theatre, N. York Opera House, San Francisco Ballet, Maraynsky Theatre. A new and unique addition to this year's ballet repertoire will be Switzerland's best-known Zurich Ballet group, who will enact their choreography-rich, mood piece, `Golden Variations' which has won rave reviews around the world. With the festival having introduced opera to the country two years back, there has been a steady demand for it. This year, it will be the famed Hungarian State Opera, under Chief conductor Janos Kovacs, performing two memorable Puccini dramas — the tragic love tale `Tosca' and the Chinese drama `Turandot'. As usual, the music program of the international festival includes many top jazz bands.

One of them is Dutch jazz pianist Mike del Ferro leading an international group including noted bassist Yasuhito Mori and flautist Thijs Van Leer.

Another unique jazz group is the five-member Cinematic Orchestra from London, who have started a new trend of resurrecting film melodies accompanied by cinematic audio-visuals. Their latest album, `Every Day' was described as one of `2002's finest jazz albums.' The new-wave music rhythms are represented at the festival by Germany's most innovative electronic band, the Kriedler Group, noted for their combination of classical and digital sounds. Another group is Australia's best-known trumpet player James Morrison and his sextet. Morrison, who has played with greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles and B. B. King, is accompanied by a charismatic group, including vocalist Emma Pask.

The newest music group is the South East Asian Youth Orchestra and Wind Ensemble, which was recently formed with 136 young performers, and will be led by American Guest conductor Russel Guyver. Portugal's lead vocal group Tetvocal, comprising five singers who have performed jazz music worldwide will perform 12 compositions created by the King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej, a noted jazz musician.



"Tosca"... tragic love drama.

Thailand will be represented at the festival, by four of its best-known music bands, who will resurrect the music of the 1960s, including Cliff Richard, Beatles and others.

The festival will close with some sizzling modern dance performances, including America's best-known Paul Taylor Company. They will stage three of their best-known compositions, while Australia's leading contemporary dance group, the Sydney Dance Company led by celebrated choreographer Graeme Murphy, will perform their non narrative piece, `Ellipse' that broke all box-office records recently. Mexico's best known Salsa group Los Flamers, known for its electric rhythms and movements, will close Bangkok's International Festival of Dance and Music with the audiences truly spinning on their feet.

LEKHA J. SHANKAR

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