At a time when most theatres in the world are closed, Singapore will stage one of the first international arts festivals in the world to take place since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Featuring a bumper crop of new commissions and international work, both live and online, the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) will present over 60 shows and 300 performances, with artists from Switzerland, Australia, USA, Lebanon, Japan, Malaysia and Philippines performing alongside hundreds of Singaporean artists and freelancers within the 16-day festival period. SIFA 2021 will lead the way in showing what an international festival might look like in the future, with its format of live, hybrid, and digital programmes.
Festival Director Gaurav Kripalani says “This festival has been programmed as a response to everything we’ve been through and the environment we live in now. Streaming performances online was what a lot of us had to resort to during lock-down, which is less than ideal. What it did do though was spur my interest in exploring 3D, interactive and responsive technologies in relationship to performance, which I believe will become an integral part of the performing arts going forward. If we had to find a silver lining to Covid-19, it is that there is a far greater appreciation for the arts and a pent-up demand for live performances.”
Bringing the world to you
In a year when most people are unable to travel or attend a show in person, SIFA brings the world to its audiences through a curated line-up of work from game-changing artists from Singapore and beyond. It will showcase artists who have incorporated different technologies from lo-fi to high-tech to interact with audiences in real time; live performances in theatres, and shows where artists have collaborated across borders.
Highlights include the debut of one of the first Chinese-English modern adaptations of Chekov’s Three Sisters by New York-based SITI Company and Singaporean theatre group Nine Years Theatre, with SITI company actors appearing digitally whilst the Singaporean actors perform on stage; American dancer and choreographer Pam Tanowitz using remote-working technology to create a new piece as part of the three-part production The Rhythm of Us by Singapore Dance Theatre and Singapore Symphony Orchestra, who will be performing together live for the first time; and Sophia Brous presenting the world premiere of Invisible Opera in which she will perform live in Melbourne whilst interacting with audiences in a Singapore city square.
Celebration of live and life
SIFA 2021 will boast a rich line-up of live performances in various venues with new festival commissions and works by Singaporean artists, including first-time collaborations between major arts companies.
In addition to world premieres of The Year of No Return by The Necessary Stage, A Dream Under the Southern Bough: Existence by Toy Factory Productions, OIWA – the Ghost of Yotsuya by The Finger Players, which will feature both Singaporean and Japanese actors, there will also be the first stage collaboration between Pangdemonium, Wild Rice Theatre and Singapore Repertory Theatre, a hybrid concert by NADA and a VR immersive experience by The Observatory. The opening weekend of the Festival will also feature a tribute concert to celebrate Singapore jazz legend and 2018 Cultural Medallion recipient Louis Soliano.
Connection, Compassion & Community
Care, compassion and climate change will be a central theme throughout the Festival House programmes. This will include performances related to self-care and healing; a weekend of works curated for toddlers, children and families that are related to climate change; and a concert series centred around compassion, which will feature various Singapore-based chamber ensembles.
Festival Director Kripalani added, “Art serves as a mirror to our time as well as a cathartic tool to help heal and give hope. The festival will be a moment for us all to commune after a period of isolation and I am incredibly proud that Singapore has SIFA, a high-quality platform of curated experiences and shows to meet different passion points.”
Arts House Limited Executive Director Tan Boon Hui says, “Based in New York throughout 2020, I saw at first hand the devastation the pandemic had on the arts scene with all live performances ceased and theatres closed. Both artists and audiences were out of work and cut off from the joys and consolations of art during this time of desolation. We are truly fortunate in Singapore to have the opportunity to experience the live arts at this moment. Gaurav’s final festival is one of hope, a signal for how art can help in the recovery of our society by bringing people together in theatres, concert halls as well as the virtual halls of the digital realm. It is a beacon for the new worlds of artistic presentation that are being forged by artists here and abroad in the wake of the pandemic.”
Deputy Chief Executive (Sector Development), National Arts Council (NAC), Low Eng Teong, says, “We celebrate the resilience of the arts community as we saw how quickly they had adapted to put together an online showcase last year, allowing audiences from around the world to experience the best of performing arts. Even with the ongoing pandemic, the arts continue to bring people together as we remain safely apart. With SIFA 2021, we look forward to sharing meaningful arts experiences through works created by Singapore and international artists. As festival programmes thread across both physical and digital platforms, more audiences can now come together to enjoy and experience the arts, safely.”
SIFA 2021 is organised by Arts House Limited, commissioned by the National Arts Council, and part of the #SGCultureAnywhere campaign.