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Sunday, 13 October, 2002, 06:29 GMT 07:29 UK
Singapore boasts new arts hub
Esplanade waterfront arts complex (photo: Esplanade Co. Ltd)
The complex could boost creativity in Singapore
Singapore has unveiled a giant arts complex with an extravaganza of music, dance and fireworks, designed to reinvent the affluent island state as an Asian cultural capital.

The Esplanade, a waterfront complex built at a cost of $337m, includes a 2,000-seat theatre and 1,600-seat concert hall.

roof of Esplanade complex
The spiky domes have been nicknamed "Durians"

The venues are housed in two spiky domes, which have been nicknamed "Big Durians" - after the spiny tropical fruit.

The spectacular launch on Saturday night included the world premiere of Reminiscing the Moon, a performance by the Singapore Dance Theatre.

Singaporeans also enjoyed performances by Malay and Indian drummers, acrobats and stiltwalkers.

Correspondents say it is an ambitious attempt to attract more tourists and promote creativity in a country more often identified with conformity and strict censorship.

Censorship

Groups supporting artists say that what is really needed to boost creativity is an end to censorship in Singapore.

The BBC's David Bottomley in Singapore says that to be a success and avoid rows of empty seats the Esplanade will need to attract high quality acts to justify relatively high ticket prices.

The Esplanade's website describes the opening of the complex as a "momentous milestone in Singapore's arts scene," voicing the hope that it will attract celebrated international performers.

The government hopes the centre will boost tourism by creating a more vibrant arts scene.

'A creative Singapore'

"This will be one significant step to the realisation of a creative and connected Singapore," President SR Nathan told the nation on Saturday.

recital hall at Esplanade (photo: Esplanade Co. Ltd)
Top international artistes will perform at the complex

But ahead of the fanfare, Singapore arts groups announced a proposal to end censorship, which will be submitted to the government.

"We don't need censorship... we need informed responsible dialogue and discussion," said one of the signatories, T Sasitharan, who heads the Practice Performing Arts School.

"The existing rules are patently irrational and unnecessary, not to mention ineffective in this day and age."

The government said in April that it would review its tight censorship laws in an effort to foster creativity.

The 23-day opening festival will include performances by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra.

There will also be a jazz performance on Malay instruments, classical Indian music and Cantonese opera.

See also:

03 Feb 02 | Entertainment
27 May 02 | Country profiles
24 Jul 01 | Entertainment
05 Jun 01 | Entertainment
01 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
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