Russians dominate this year's Music Festival in Macau, the last before the enclave is handed over to China in December.
There are Russians galore in the cast of the festival's opera, Aida. They range from a young Russian soprano who is one of the best known new names in the world of opera, through the finest mezzo-soprano and the finest baritone from Moscow's Bolshoi Opera, to a troupe of dancers from central Siberia. In addition there's a performance of the Russian composer Stravinski's most patriotic ballet.
The Russian soprano is Galina Gorchakova, who will sing the title role in three performances of Verdi's Aida on 9, 12 and 16 October in the Grand Auditorium of the Macau Cultural Centre. She will be the undisputed star of the 1999 Festival, and in addition will give a Celebrity Concert of Russian songs and operatic arias on 21 October in the Cultural Centre's large auditorium.
Irina Gelakhova, the first mezzo-soprano of the Bolshoi Opera, will sing the part of Amneris, the Egyptian Phaoaoh's daughter, and Aida's rival for the love of the young military commander Radames. The same company's premier baritone Iuri Vedeneev will sing Amonasro, Aida's father and the Emperor of Ethiopia.
The Serbian dancers are the ballet troupe from Russia's Novosibirsk Theatre. They were last in Macau in the 1995 Music Festival and will present the important dance sequences in Aida.
The opera's romantic male lead, Radames, will be sung by Italian tenor Maurizio Frusoni. He is taking part in the Macau Music Festival for the first time, and last summer was heard in the famous outdoor opera venue, the Verona Stadium.
Another highly visible presence at the 1999 Festival will be the Orchestra. Chorus and Ballet Company of the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon.
They will present a spectacular dance program on the nights of 14 and 15 October, to music by Mozart, Stravinski, and the currently very fashionable Estonian composer Arvo Part.
Stravinski's contribution will be Les Noces ('The wedding'), an uncharacteristically rousing display of enthusiasm for his mother country.
The Gulbenkian Chorus and Orchestra will in addition be responsible for the Festival's Closing Concert on 23 October. This will feature Beethoven's Choral Fantasia plus his massive and epoch-making Ninth Symphony.
The Fantasia is unusual among choral works in requiring a piano, and the pianist, on this occasion, will be the Portuguese virtuoso António Rosado. It was Rosado who played Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto in the Gala Concert that opened the Macau Cultural Centre last March.
The soloists in the symphony will be Elvira Ferreira, (soprano), Liliana Bizineche (mezzo), Mário Alves (tenor) and Michail Kit (bass). Liliana Bizineche appeared in Macau last March as a delightful Mary in Wagner's Die Fliegende Hollander at the opening of the Cultural Centre Michail Kit will also sing the part of Ramfis, the High Priest, in Aida.
The Gulbenkian forces will in addition be responsible for the only concert not taking place in the Macau Cultural Centre this year. This is a performance of Requiem in Memory of Camões by the nineteenth century Portuguese composer Bomtempo, and it will take place in the São Domingos Church on Saturday, 18 October.
The soloists will be Sandra Medeiros (soprano). Liliana Bizineche (mezzo), Alves (tenor) and Luis Rodrigues (baritone).
This work is a great favourite in Portugal, and the Macau, International Music Festival's artistic director João Pereira Bastos has chosen it as part of the valedictory colouring he is adding here and there to this year's program.
Adriano Jordão was the first artistic director of the Macau International Music Festivals when they began in 1997. It is entirely appropriate, therefore, that he should return to Macau for this year's festival, in the last year of Portuguese administration of the territory.
He will play Ravel's Concerto for the Left Hand, accompanied by the Macau Chamber Orchestra, on 22 October. The program includes another work by Ravel, his Ma mére Voye suite together with Elgar's Enigma Variations.
Yet another Portuguese pianist will be in Macau at festival time, the youthful Artur Pizarro. He will play a varied program of twentieth century American music on 10 October.
Pizarro will follow this the next evening (11 October) with Rachmaninov's First Piano Concerto, accompanied by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra Also in the program is the Mussorgsky Ravel version of Pictures at an Exhibition.
Katia and Marielle Labeque were first seen in Macau during the 1994 International Music Festival. This year the colourful piano duo returns to give two concerts.
The first is a recital of popular pieces for two pianos by Brahms, Schubert, Tchaikovski and Debusy on 19 October. The following night they will play Mendelssohn's Concerto in E for Two Pianos with the Gulbenkian Orchestra under the baton of Muhai Tang in a concert that also includes Tchaikovski's Sixth (Pathetique) Symphony.
Tang is a familiar figure at Macau Music Festivals. Last year, for instance, he conducted the Opening Concert, a performance of Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream music in São Domingos Church.
The Macau Chinese Orchestra is exceptionally popular in the enclave. This year they will give a concert in the august setting of the Macau Cultural Centre's Grand Auditorium on Sunday 17 October.
All festival performances begin at 8pm, with the one exception of a concert of classical guitar and percussion music. This takes place on Saturday 16 October and begins at 5 pm.
The festival runs from 9 to 23 October.
Tickets can be reserved using credit cards from 1 September on Tel: 7171-7171 in Hong Kong, and Tel: 555-555 in Macau. Or they can be bought direct from the box office of the Macau Cultural Centre.