Silk & Spices Festival
For the last ten years, the Utah Symphony| Utah Opera Education Department has organized an annual cultural festival that is about more than music. Each year there is a special theme – anything from Shakespeare and Beethoven to fairy tales and Vienna. Last year, the title of the cultural festival was “Florencia Festival” with all things Latin America.
The USUO Cultural Festival started as a way for the opera and symphony to create events together and has expanded, including all types of activities through the community. When planning the cultural festivals, Education Director Paula Fowler plans more than the just the basics of music and art, creating “a humanities class that I would want to take.”
This year the title of the festival is “Silk and Spices”; it will showcase a series of events that will celebrate the music, arts, history and tastes of China.
There are many chances to go see musical performances. The Festival starts off on Jan. 31 and Feb 1 with the the instruments of the Utah Symphony as they play Qigang Chen’s Wu Xing (The Five Elements) followed by a celebration of the Chinese New Year on Saturday Feb. 1, 2014 at the Salt Lake City Public Library (this event is free). Utah Opera will be performing Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot on March 15-23, the story of a cruel Chinese princess who is determined not to fall in love. The Utah Chinese Folk Orchestra will be playing traditional Chinese instruments on the Abravanel Hall Stage on March 24. Utah Symphony violinist Wen Yuan Gu will perform in the same space on March 31 with pianist Hsiang Tu.
The festival also includes many traditional dance performances. On March 4-5 there will be a special performance by Shen Yun, an international company that portrays 5,000 years of Chinese civilization through classical Chinese dance and music. On March 28-29, the Children’s Dance Theatre will perform The Three Questions, the story of a boy who is soon to be the emperor.
There are also events celebrating Chinese history. On Feb. 5 the Utah Museum of Fine Arts will hold a special lecture by curator Luke Kelly called “Trade and Travel on the Silk Road.” At the Salt Lake Public Library, there will be a special showing of Chen Kaige’s film Farewell My Concubine on March 25. The final event of the festival is another movie at the library: a film titled Hero by Zhang Yimou that focuses on the beauty of martial arts and includes a special Q&A session with fight choreographer Chris DuVal.
A cultural discovery of any country is incomplete without sampling the food, and there are opportunities during this festival to enjoy the wonderful tastes and flavors of China. On March 19, before you go to Turandot, there will be a pre-opera Southern Chinese Dinner at the Hong Kong Tea House from 5:30 – 7:00pm. And on April 17, there will be a special dinner featuring Northern Chinese cuisine at Ho Mei Restaurant in Salt Lake City’s new Chinatown.
These events are only part of what is in store for you during the Silk and Spices Festival. Many of these events are free and perfect for family outings. For a list of all the events over the next 4 months, visit www.usuo.org/festival. Those who would enjoy reading about the festival in Chinese are invited to check out the listing at http://usuo.chineseutah.com.