Thank you for making the Singapore International Festival of Arts 2019 one to remember.
Growing up, I looked forward to our pinnacle national arts festival each year. It played a big part in shaping my love for the arts. Since being appointed Festival Director last year, one of my goals has been to generate that same level of buzz, excitement and wonder that I used to experience when I was young. Your support, encouragement and enthusiasm have been integral in helping us achieve that this year.
SIFA 2019 saw world premieres alongside classic work; legendary artists alongside new faces; the best globally alongside the best from Singapore.
We featured shows and programmes that would appeal to both arts aficionados and to first-time festivalgoers, using multiple venues across the city. Silo Theatre’s Peter and the Wolf, our first show for children, used puppetry, projection and music that had kids enthralled. We took audiences to a secret location in Gardens by the Bay to watch Thomas Dudkiewicz tell spell-binding Bedtime Stories that were definitely not for kids! Frogman and VR_I cleverly incorporated Virtual Reality in completely different ways. We gave 22 films their Singapore premieres. And we ended with a free celebratory concert in the park with our national orchestra. Our goal was to work with game-changing artists who are at the pinnacle of their profession to present styles of work that may never have been seen here before.
On our opening weekend alone, we had a work by visionary Complicité director Simon McBurney - one of the most erudite, intelligent directors of our time; a regional production directed by legendary Japanese director Tadashi Suzuki; and a new Singaporean work helmed by Ho Tzu Nyen – one of our most accomplished artists.
Besides Tzu Nyen, we were also heartened to see the labour of our other festival commissions - Toy Factory and Checkpoint Theatre - bear fruit, with their original productions proving a resounding success locally and also seeing healthy international interest.
Our goal was to create a holistic experience for audiences. For example, in addition to watching Suzuki’s production of Dionysus which featured actors from three different Asian countries, audiences could come to Festival House – the epicentre of the festival - and attend a workshop on the famed Suzuki method of acting, listen to a talk about the history of the Suzuki Company of Toga, as well as engage in conversation with the man himself.
Apart from bringing many artists to Singapore for the first time, there were many other firsts. By presenting Shiro Takatani’s exquisite multi-media production, ST/LL, it sparked a conversation between Takatani and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto which resulted in a mesmerising evening of improvisation between these two incredible artists which took place on and around a pool of water on the Esplanade stage – a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those lucky enough to have been there.
It excites me to see a groundswell of interest in the performing arts. Seeing students snap up our $10 Student Front Row tickets and participate actively in artist discussions has been a delight. And who could forget the smiles, laughter and ‘wefies’ taken by festival-goers at our free programmes De Relaxerette, We Can Dance and our closing concert at Botanic Gardens
SIFA is about taking us out of our comfort zones and broadening our horizons. I loved seeing so many audience members willing to explore the various seminal and genre-defying works, be it Sasha Waltz’s Körper, Gisèle Vienne’s Crowd, Asuna’s 100 Keyboards or listening to the virtuosity of guitarist, Bill Frisell. The biggest compliments we received were from audience members who said, "Thank you for presenting that show. I've never seen anything like that before." The biggest compliment from visiting artists was how appreciative they were of the warmth and hospitality they received, not just from the SIFA team, but from Singapore.
I am grateful for many things and to many people. To our commissioners, the National Arts Council and MCCY, for recognising and supporting the important role this national festival plays in our cultural landscape; to the amazing Board and team at Arts House Limited who work tirelessly to put on this mammoth event; to our sponsors and partners who help enable us to bring in the very best shows from around the world; to the media who have taken the time to cover this event; to the hundreds of incredible festival ambassadors and volunteers who have given their time; and most of all, to you, our audience for experiencing this journey with us.
We look forward to taking this journey with you next year from 15-31 May 2020, where we will continue to curate shows that will provoke, engage and excite. We can’t wait to bring you along for this thrilling ride!