Festive Moments

Although the production’s name escapes me, the sound of a Chinese opera I attended more than a dozen years ago as part of the Hong Kong Arts Festival still resonates.

For me, this fervent, yet discordant operatic style was a taste I had yet to acquire. Despite the musical dissonance,  I did feel some kind of harmony with the mostly Asian audience at the theater, which was located in the New Territories more than an hour’s train ride from Hong Kong.

I hope the native speakers and those more accustomed to this particular art form got more out of the actual production than I did, but the overall experience still ranks as a favorite travel memory.

For that reason, I always try to take in a performance or some other art exhibit or event while traveling, but timing a trip to an arts festival allows for an even greater cross-cultural immersion.

Here are five compelling events on the late summer-early fall docket:

The 67th Venice Film Festival (Sept. 1-11) opens with Black Swan, a psychological thriller directed by Darren Antonofsky and starring Natalie Portman as a ballet dancer pitted against a new rival; the fest closes with Julie Taymor’s version of the Shakespearean comedy, The Tempest, with a cast featuring Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Alan Cumming and David Strathairn. In between will be screenings of over 80 films, as well as the presentation of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to producer-director John Woo.

Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe (Sept. 3-18) offers a showcase for internationally known and locally based dance, music and theater artists, who perform in theaters, on the streets and in nontraditional venues, such as bars and parking garages. On tap for this year’s festival are a dozen world and two U.S. premieres. One of the most sought after tickets is sure to be Dance, a collaboration among choregrapher Lucinda Childs, filmmaker Sol LeWitt and composer Philip Glass.

Bumbershoot: Seattle’s Music & Arts Festival (Sept. 4-6) offers a range of music, film, comedy, spoken word, dance, theater, performance art and visual arts exhibits. Tickets are sold as day or weekend passes, with most including entry to all performances.

Munich Oktoberfest (Sept. 18-Oct. 4), the traditional, often rowdy celebration of Bavarian food, beer and music, attracts some 6 million visitors each year. To make more the event more palatable to families, organizers implemented a policy in 2005 that restricts the louder “Schlager”-style music to 6 p.m. and later, and mandates a lower decibel level for the daytime hours.

Seoul Drum Festival (Sept. 24-26) offers as its centerpiece a series of drum performances and a street parade that will feature 20 national percussion teams and seven other groups representing countries including Japan, France, India and Mexico.