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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 June 2007, 09:09 GMT 10:09 UK
Monkey opera for festival launch
Monkey: Journey to the West is based on an ancient legend

A Chinese opera composed by a leading figure of the London music scene was launching the inaugural Manchester International Festival on Thursday.

Damon Albarn's Monkey: Journey to the West features more than 40 acrobats, vocalists and martial artists.

The 21st Century spectacle is one of 25 specially commissioned new works from across the arts spectrum for the event.

Lou Reed, Kanye West, Happy Mondays, The Fall and PJ Harvey are among the musicians taking part.

Monkey features characters created by Albarn's Gorillaz collaborator Jamie Hewlett and is directed by Chen Shi-Zheng, a veteran of Chinese theatre.

The story is based on the ancient Chinese tale of Monkey King's journey of enlightenment, brought to western audiences through the popular Monkey television programme in the 1970s.

Monkey
Monkey features characters created by Jamie Hewlett

Manchester International Festival director Alex Poots said he was "very, very excited" at the launch.

"It is a new form of opera that starts first here in Manchester before it goes to the Paris Opera House and Berlin Opera House.

"So Manchester is getting the very best right at the start."

Organisers have billed the event as the world's first international festival of original, new work.

Events and performances have been created by leading artists from across the spectrum of popular culture and the arts.

One "conceptual art" work, created by Carsten Holler, involves 24 volunteers wearing special goggles which turns everything in their vision upside down.

The festival runs from Thursday until 15 July.


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The Manchester International Festival begins



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