Wednesday, February 22, 2012

While Perth scorches in summer heat, Arts Festival turns city red hot

Summer in Perth is always hot but when the Perth International Arts Festival (PIAF) commences in February Perth suddenly becomes even hotter. For several weeks in summer Perth becomes a vibrant and animated city with a strong arts and music scene. PIAF makes Perth feel like a real city rather than a large provincial town.

2012 marked PIAF’s 60th birthday and it showed no sign of slowing down. In my humble opinion, this year’s programme proved to be one of its finest and most diverse, with an outdoor contemporary music venue in the city, outdoor films, opera, visual art, theatre, classical music as well as much more

PIAF 2012 opened with an amazing performance by French circus trope Le Studios de Cirque with a performance called Place des Anges. This mind blowing performance involved acrobats gliding from one office block to another in a section of one of the CBD’s main streets while showering us with tons and tons of feathers.


The effect was mind blowing and the only way to describe it was - movingly beautiful. Young and old, people were captivated by the surreal nature of the performance. People didn’t want to leave, preferring to linger and enjoy the moment. When they did leave, they left with smiles of their faces and a sense of peace and wonder.

One of the changes to the 2012 Festival was the creation of the "Festival Gardens" which is home to PIAF’s contemporary music programme. This part of the Festival has defiantly moved on a long way since its Beck’s Verandah days. It just keeps on better and better and I can’t think of a better way to spend a barmy Perth evening. 'Little Roy’s Nirvana covers done reggae style was totally random and very cool.

Classical Music has often taken back seat in past festivals but this year there is a great line up with Tafelmusik, The Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) and a Chamber Music Weekend.  Mozart’s Magic Flute was staged at His Majesty’s Theatre and the WA Opera performed The Pearlfishers at the Supreme Court Gardens.

The ACO gave a energetic performance of Mendelssohn’s Octet tonight at the Concert Hall. Of course they are an orchestra made up of players with amazing technical ability but what makes them such a great ensemble and such a joy to watch is their passion, love of performing and commitment to the music. Polina Leschenko gave a lyrical and virtuosic performance of Chopin’s Piano Concerto. Her technique was superb and made Chopin’s demanding writing sound so effortless.

The Escher String Quartet had the huge task of presenting a Brahms Chamber Music Weekend at the State Theatre Centre. I got to go to the Sunday Afternoon concert and was blown away by their musicality and skill, not to mention Brahm’s great music. By the end of the Piano Quintet in F minor, the hardcore Brahms fans next to me had tears in their eyes, which show the power of music to uplift and speak deeply to people.   While a String Quartet is the epitome of collective music making, Pierre Lapointe’s performance in the String Quartet No.1 in C minor deserves a special mention. While I’m not a music critic, I appreciated his rich tone and delicate interpretation of the music.

The Perth Writers’ Festival is a must for any book lover and fan of big ideas. Unfortunately, I will miss this year’s festival, but the 2012 programme is bigger and better. A session with Annabel Crab is mandatory for any political hack and devotee of the ABC’s political reportage. While there is the usual celebration of the written word and hardcore debate of society’s biggest issues, there are also events for children such as circus workshops. Be prepared to spend all weekend there!
Each year the Perth Festival gets better and better, so thank you PIAF for bringing Perth alive every summer and for making it feel less isolated and provincial.

 PIAF 2013 – I can’t wait!

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