SINGAPORE – This year, the Esplanade Moonfest will be trading its ticketed headliners for free performances.

Its 60-plus performances and activities range from shadow puppetry to modern twists on traditional Chinese music. All are free with the exception of five ticketed workshops.

Moonfest, which marks the Mid-Autumn Festival and is in its 15th edition, will run from tomorrow (Sept 13) to Sunday.

Festival programmer Desmond Chew says the change from the previous mix of ticketed and free shows is meant to make the festival more accessible, especially to families and the younger generation.

He adds that the Esplanade plans to present ticketed performances of traditional Chinese arts throughout the year, not just during Moonfest.

“This gives us greater flexibility to work with the artists and arts groups, without being tied down by constraints such as their touring schedules or availability of our performing venues.”

Acts at this year’s Moonfest include Malaysian guzheng player Sara Heng, 29, who will be performing classical pieces as well as rock covers such as The Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb.

Heng has been playing the guzheng since she was 12 and studied it at the prestigious Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing.

  • BOOK IT/ MOONFEST 2019

  • WHERE: Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Tomorrow to Sunday, various timings

    ADMISSION: Free except ticketed workshops

    INFO: www.esplanade.com/moonfest

Besides the traditional instrument, she also plays an electric guzheng made of transparent acrylic, which she describes as an “oriental electric guitar”.

“The guzheng is very versatile and I would like audiences to see different sides of it,” she tells The Straits Times over the telephone. “The typical impression is that it’s very ancient, but it has developed.”

Overseas arts groups coming for Moonfest include Little Plum Blossom artists from China, the highest accolade given to young xiqu (Chinese opera) performers below the age of 14, and the Taishan Shadow Puppet Art Troupe, who will present excerpts from classics such as Shi Gandang Fights The Evil Wolf and Frog-Turtle-Crane.

“These are exciting shows that we think all kinds of audiences can understand and enjoy,” says troupe leader Fan Wei Guo, 42, in a telephone interview.


Taishan Shadow Puppetry Art Troupe leader Fan Wei Guo. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ESPLANADE – THEATRES ON THE BAY

Taishan shadow puppetry is more than 600 years old and was listed in 2011 as Unesco World Intangible Cultural Heritage. A single performer will recite dialogue, sing songs, manipulate the puppet and play instruments with his feet – all at the same time.

“Its cultural value is enormous and it is very important to preserve it,” says Fan, who is the seventh generation in his family to carry on the art.

Home-grown artists August Lum and Gary Ong will be bridging East and West in Of Painted Faces and Tinkling Ivories, in which Ong will perform Cantonese opera while Lum accompanies him on the piano.

“I hope the audience will like this combination and will begin to notice that there are no strict boundaries between different art forms,” says Ong, 37.

“Music and art bring people together.”