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Singapore International Festival Of Arts 2019 Invites Audiences To Explore The Arts With International Luminaries And The Very Best Of Singaporean Artists

  • Kripalani explores further dimensions in year two and continues to foster deeper discussions at Festival House
  • Increased range of work incorporating technology and multidisciplinary work
  • Holistic Festival experience

SINGAPORE, 25 February 2019 - Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA 2019) returns for its 42nd year, featuring a line-up of iconic artists from around the world alongside the very best from Singapore. Commissioned by the National Arts Council and organised by Arts House Limited, Singapore’s pinnacle performing arts festival will be held from 16 May to 2 June. This is the second SIFA to be helmed by Festival Director, Gaurav Kripalani (2018 to 2020).

Kripalani says: “When I started my three-year journey as SIFA’s Festival Director, my goal was to identify individual artists around the world who have been ground-breaking in their respective art forms, and persuade them to come to Singapore. To each one that I spoke to, I painted a picture of the Singapore we live in, and how rapidly our arts landscape was evolving. Artists who are ground-breaking in their fields have always inspired me. My hope is that they will also inspire both Singaporean artists, as well as audiences. As I am sure we will inspire them.”


Beware of Pity by Schaubühne Berlin & Complicité), photo by Gianmarco Bresadol

SIFA 2019 will bring luminaries of the performing arts world to Singapore, with the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto, Simon McBurney, Sasha Waltz, Bill Frisell and as previously announced, Tadashi Suzuki. Music powerhouses Sakamoto and Frisell will be making their Singaporean debut, along with renowned choreographer Waltz. Sakamoto will also be collaborating with Japanese artist Shiro Takatani, founder of artist collective, Dumb Type.

SIFA will present four of the best Singaporean artists, including Huzir Sulaiman, Claire Wong, Ho Tzu Nyen and Goh Boon Teck. SIFA 2019 will be Goh Boon Teck’s second consecutive SIFA, directing the second instalment of A Dream Under the Southern Bough , a three-part SIFA commission.


Having announced four shows in December 2018 ( Dionysus, The Mysterious Lai Teck, Displaced Persons’ Welcome Dinner and A Dream Under the Southern Bough: Reverie  ), SIFA now unveils the full programme for 2019, which goes beyond the traditional disciplines of music, theatre and dance by incorporating technology and multidisciplinary works. With a wide range of performances programmed for SIFA 2019, audiences are invited to explore works that extend beyond their comfort zones.

Sarah Martin, CEO of Arts House Limited says, “SIFA’s programming captures Singapore’s creativity and innovation, positioning the Festival not just as the pinnacle arts event on the local stage, but as a distinguished arts festival at a global level.”

Low Eng Teong, Assistant CEO (Sector Development), National Arts Council, says, “SIFA is an important platform championing the best of Singaporean performing arts. In Our SG Arts Plan launched last October, the festival is recognised as a focal point for the performing arts in Singapore’s vibrant cultural calendar, where our home-grown artists present distinctive content that will resonate with our audiences. We are confident that festival-goers and artists will embrace SIFA 2019, creating meaningful connections among the performing arts community and industry, and inspiring a new generation of art lovers and supporters.”   

The Storyteller

  • Conceived by Dutch collective URLAND and inspired by radio plays, Bedtime Stories celebrates the art of the voice, with actor Thomas Dudkiewicz bringing his cast of characters to life and leading the audiences to a fantastical universe.
  • Singaporean visual artist Ho Tzu Nyen employs shadow play, projections, animatronics and music in The Mysterious Lai Teck , a SIFA 2019 commission, to explore the life of shadowy historical figure Lai Teck, blurring the line between fact and fiction.
  • Commissioned as the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize photographer, Sim Chi Yin takes audiences on a journey into the story of her paternal grandfather, a leftist deported to China during the Malayan Emergency, through a reading called One Day We’ll Understand . The reading will be followed by a conversation between Sim Chi Yin and curator Sam I-Shan on her ongoing work to archive the counter-narratives of the Southeast Asian region.
  • De Relaxerette is a revolving installation conceived by Dutch artist Arjan Kruidhof, where audiences put headphones on and explore a collection of sounds and stories from Singapore and the Netherlands.

Classics Reinvented

  • World-renowned director Tadashi Suzuki directs Dionysus, offering a masterful adaptation of the Greek tragedy, The Bacchae, and featuring Suzuki Company of Toga in collaboration with Punarti Indonesia.
  • Based on Tang Xianzu’s epic Kun Opera play, A Dream Under the Southern Bough: Reverie, follows its predecessor, The Beginning, as the second instalment of an ambitious three-part series by Toy Factory.
  • Silo Theatre presents a modern adaptation of Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, using a six-piece band, puppetry, live videography and a local narrator, to stage the musical production that will delight young audiences.

Sign of the Times

  • Checkpoint Theatre presents Displaced Persons’ Welcome Dinner, a multidisciplinary theatrical work commissioned by SIFA 2019 that investigates the truth of the aid industry, battling with the issues of conflict and the toxic nature of institutions.
  • Entering the world of Greek mythology, Oreste by Ifigenia by theatre-maker Tan Shou Chen and music director Ng Tian Hui present a new interpretation of George Frideric Handel’s opera Oreste by turning the spotlight on Ifigenia, originally a supporting character.
  • Beware of Pity is an emotionally-gripping play about the treacherous nature of pity, stunningly told by one of UK’s most respected directors, Simon McBurney, with actors from the famed Schaubühne Berlin.

Moving Images

ST/LL by Shiro Takatani (Dumb Type), photo by Yoshikazu Inoue

  • Shiro Takatani ( Dumb Type ) explores the idea of silence with ST/LL , an interdisciplinary performance-installation, using lighting, media art, stage design and dance movement to music by Ryuichi Sakamoto, all of which intertwines into a dream-like tableaux.
  • Sasha Waltz draws links between the body with architecture, science and history in Körper, a graphic and confronting dance theatre piece that weaves together with sequences of dance, imagery and story-telling.
  • Crowd sees 15 young dancers use stylised movements stemming from urban dance to puppetry to create scenes of arresting visual anarchy at a techno rave party. Choreographed and directed by Gisèle Vienne, it is driven by an electronic dance music selection spanning from Underground Resistance to Jeff Mills.

Music Mavericks

  • Legendary guitarist Bill Frisell takes the stage in this Singapore premiere of the Bill Frisell Trio, as they perform a lively improvisatory set and some of Frisell’s most iconic compositions.
  • Best known for the soundtrack of The Last Emperor, world-renowned Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto will be performing Fragments, a rare improvisatory set that will be accompanied by Shiro Takatani’s
  • Explore sound interference and resonance in relation to the location of the audience in 100 Keyboards, a live performance installation created by Japanese sound artist ASUNA, featuring 100 keyboards.
  • Impulse will see Varsha, a local group that blends their musical roots in the Indian culture with rhythmic music, collaborate with veteran guitarist Paul Danial and guest saxophonist Tim O’Dwyer to perform new original compositions and arrangements of classic jazz standards.


We Can Dance Daily tous les jours, featuring ScRach MarcS, photo by Martine Doyon

  • Daily tous les jour will be collaborating with local hip-hop duo, ScRach MarcS, to bring We Can Dance, an interactive performance installation which invites audiences to imitate choreography in a recording booth to create a collaborative dance that is projected to reveal the interactions and interpretations of each subsequent participant.
  • Fusing groundbreaking virtual reality and theatre with a thrilling murder mystery, Frogman by UK company curious directive takes you to the cutting edge of live storytelling today.
  • VR_I is an innovative dance piece that resulted from a collaboration between Swiss choreographer, Gilles Jobin, and Artanim, a non-profit foundation dedicated to the development of motion capture. Equipped with VR headsets and other motion-capture gear, VR_I immerses five members of the audience in a virtual environment where their avatars move and interact with one another.

In line with the objective of growing a new generation of arts lovers, SIFA 2019 will feature family-friendly shows like Peter and the Wolf. The SIFA Educators’ Engagement Tea will invite artists to talk about their work with educators, allowing them to better match shows in this year’s line-up with their students’ curriculums. SIFA will also continue Kripalani’s successful $10 front-row student ticket initiative launched last year, as well as concessions for students, NSFs, senior citizens and ticket bundle deals.

We Can Dance and the Festival Closing Concert will be non-ticketed and staged at non-traditional performance spaces – the National Library Board atrium and Botanic Gardens respectively.


Part of SIFA’s aim is to commission new Singaporean work to foster dialogue and collaboration between artists.

Kripalani adds: “One of the roles of SIFA is also to commission new Singaporean work. I adopted the same methodology - I identified artists who are at the pinnacle of their field in Singapore. I asked them what their dream project would be, how it would contribute to the cannon of local work, and how SIFA could help facilitate make it happen. From the various proposals and projects on the table, we chose the ones that would form a holistic festival of arts and ideas; that caters to our diverse audience over a three-year horizon, bringing the Festival to different dimensions; and taking the audience on journey with us.”

In addition to commissioning Displaced Persons’ Welcome Dinner, SIFA has also commissioned A Dream Under the Southern Bough and The Mysterious Lai Teck . Toy Factory’s three-part work comprising The Beginning (2018), Reverie (2019) and Existence (2020), and the use of animatronics in The Mysterious Lai Teck were made possible by resources provided by SIFA.

Giving local artists time and resources to explore and push their artistic boundaries is one of the core objectives of SIFA, and artists are offered a two or three-year runway to create their works. Artists for SIFA 2020 have similarly already begun work on their shows, and will be participating in process talks during SIFA 2019 at the Festival House. Festival-goers can get a glimpse into the creative process and research behind The Necessary Stage’s The Year of No Return, The Finger Player’s OIWA and Nine Years Theatre’s Three Sisters.


SIFA 2019 aims to create a space for local artists to be exposed to the works and process of well-established artists in their fields, fostering dialogue and sparking collaboration between artists. To facilitate this, the Arts House will once again transform into the Festival House, acting as the epicentre of the festival, with talks, workshops, and spaces for artistic encounters and exchanges within the arts community. Located within the Festival House, House Pour, a pop-up bar, will also offer a gathering point for artists and audiences to interact with one another and discuss the artists’ works.

Festival-goers can hear directly from the artists presenting in SIFA 2019, with the “In Conversation” series, where artists discuss their artistic journeys and works beyond what is shown this year. Artists involved in this series include Ho Tzu Nyen, Bill Frisell, Sasha Waltz, Shiro Takatani and Tadashi Suzuki. They are also offered the opportunity to explore Ho Tzu Nyen’s journey through his past works, The Nameless and The Name , video installations that will be exhibited at the Festival House. All three of his works (including The Mysterious Lai Teck ) form a part of Ho Tzu Nyen’s long-term project, The Critical Dictionary of Southeast Asia, which takes audiences through his investigation into Southeast Asia in the 1900s.

Lectures by academics on topics related to certain performances will offer audiences a different insight and perspective to the productions. Dr Wang Bing will be exploring Ming Dynasty Drama as a companion to A Dream Under the Southern Bough: Reverie, while Dr Lee Chee Keng, Assistant Professor of Theatre Practice at Yale-NUS College, will examine Tadashi Suzuki’s methodology in relation to his company’s isolation from Japan’s metropolitan cities.

Audiences can also look forward to We Can Dance, an outcome of a collaboration between local hip-hop duo ScRach MarcS and Canadian artists Daily tous les jour.


SIFA 2019 also continues its partnership with the Asian Dramaturgs' Network, Asian Film Archive and Esplanade. Asian Dramaturgs' Network will be holding a conference in the Festival House to discuss the position of dramaturgs' in Asia, while the Asian Film Archive will be curating a selection of films that celebrate independent and singular visions from Singapore and around the world. Esplanade’s Flipside returns as an industry partner for SIFA 2019.

More information on SIFA 2019’s full line-up can be found on sifa.sg .


About the Singapore International Festival of Arts 2019 (SIFA 2019)

As Singapore’s annual pinnacle arts festival, the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) presents captivating and diverse works across theatre, music, dance, film and visual arts. First launched as the Singapore Festival of Arts in 1977, the festival has gone through several evolutions and inspired generations of arts lovers and practitioners. Today, the highly-anticipated festival is a high-point on Singapore’s arts and cultural calendar.

Under the helm of Festival Director Gaurav Kripalani from 2018–2020, SIFA continues its festival mission to champion the creation and presentation of Singaporean and international works. At SIFA 2019, The Arts House will once again be transformed into the Festival House. With meaningful engagement opportunities from artists talks, workshops, discussions and the festival bar—House Pour, the Festival House breaks down the walls between artists and audiences to create unique experiences and inspiring artistic encounters.


About Arts House Limited

Arts House Limited (AHL) is a not-for-profit organisation committed to enriching lives through the arts. AHL manages two key landmarks located in the heart of Singapore’s Civic District – The Arts House, a multi-disciplinary arts centre with a focus on literary programming, and the Victoria Theatre & Victoria Concert Hall, a heritage building that is home to the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. It also runs the Goodman Arts Centre and Aliwal Arts Centre, two creative enclaves for artists, arts groups and creative businesses, and performing arts space Drama Centre. AHL presents the Singapore International Festival of Arts, the annual pinnacle celebration of performance and interdisciplinary arts in Singapore commissioned by the National Arts Council.

AHL was set up in 11 Dec 2002 as a company limited by guarantee (CLG) under the National Arts Council and was formerly known as The Old Parliament House Limited. It was officially renamed Arts House Limited on 19 Mar 2014.

About the National Arts Council

The National Arts Council champions the arts in Singapore. By nurturing creative excellence and supporting broad audience engagement, our diverse and distinctive arts inspire our people, connect communities and profile Singapore internationally. We preserve our rich, cultural traditions as we cultivate accomplished artists and vibrant companies for the future. Our support for the arts is comprehensive – from grants and partnerships to industry facilitation and arts housing. The Council welcomes greater private and corporate giving to and through the arts, so that together we can make the arts an integral part of everyone’s lives. For more information on the Council’s mission and plans, please visit www.nac.gov.sg.

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Website: sifa.sg
Facebook: facebook.com/sifa.sg
Twitter: twitter.com/sifa_sg
Instagram: instagram.com/sifa_sg

(Credits: Arts House Limited)


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For more information, please contact:

Johann Khairi
Communications Manager
Arts House Limited
T: +65 6435 0176
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Charmaine Lau
Huntington Communications
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  • 2019