The five-week festival runs through March 20.
The Beethoven symphonies will be performed over four nights—March 1, 3, 4, and 5—by the Orchestra of the 18th Century, led by Frans Br‹ggen. The choral parts of the Ninth Symphony will be sung by the orchestra's longtime collaborator, the Gulbenkian Choir from Portugal, with soloists soprano Rebecca Nash, Alto Wilke te Brummelstroete, tenor Mark Tevis, and bass David Wilson-Johnson.
Other music highlights include performances by pianist Leif Ove Andsnes with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, the Brazilian Guitar Quartet, and the Russian Orthodox Choir singing Gregorian chants from the 9th to 11th centuries and liturgical music from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Western opera is represented at the festival by Verdi's Otello, performed by the Polish National Opera and directed by Mariusz Trelinski. In Chinese opera, the program features a kunju production of The Palace of Eternal Youth, performed by the Suzhou Kun Opera Theater of the Jiansu Province. (Kunju is a performance style distinguished by lyric and poetic interpretation.) The opera, which portrays the tragic love between Emperor Xuan Zong and his concubine Lady Yang Yuhuan, will be presented in three parts on three separate nights.
Visiting dance companies participating in the festival include the Ballet Nacional de Espaê±a, Italy's Compagnia Aterballetto, B_jart Ballet Lausanne (directed by the legendary Maurice B_jart), and the Nederlands Dans Theater III.
The jazz lineup features performances from the Brad Mehldau Trio, the Regina Carter Quintet, Lila Downs, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and the Poncho Sanchez Latin Band. Two special programs feature gypsy folk music from Rajasthan, performed by the group Divana, and All That Shanghai Jazz, a program celebrating Shanghai in the 1930s.
The Hong Kong Arts Festival began in 1973. This year's festival features performances from 32 international performing ensembles and 10 local groups.