This year marks the 26th anniversary of Le French May — that’s more than a quarter-century of the distinguished annual celebration of French culture in Hong Kong; a two-month-long arts festival which brings hundreds of artists, luminaries and maestros to the city. While Hong Kong’s dining scene is paying homage to Gallic cuisine on the occasion of Le French GourMay, our culture radar is particularly on fire this month, with everything from opera, theatre and jazz concerts to French pop art retrospectives and some of the hottest urban dancing ever seen in Hong Kong. Check out our picks for what’s not to miss in the coming weeks.

George Bizet’s ‘Carmen’

Le French May 2018 - Carmen

When: 16–20 May, 7:30pm

Price: HK$150–$1,080 from Urbtix

One of the headlining performances throughout Le French May this year is Carmen. It’s one of the most-performed operas in the world, but it remains a show-stopping classic for a reason. Set in southern Spain, the French libretto centres on the naive soldier Don José, who throws his life away — even his childhood sweetheart Micaëla — as he falls for the wiles of a passionate gypsy woman Carmen.

Hong Kong Cultural Centre, 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong, +852 2734 2009

Revisiting Piaf and Trenet’s Biggest Hits
Le French May 2018 - Eric Le Lann
Image credit: Nathalie Mazeas

When: 9 June, 8pm

Price: HK$300–$400 from Urbtix

The sultry, smoky sexiness of “La Vie en Rose” belted through trumpet might just be one of finest riffs to listen to for any jazz lover. With French jazz trumpeter Eric Le Lann, Paul Lay on the piano, Sylvain Romano on the double bass and Donald Kontomanou on drums, this is one performance you won’t want to miss.

City Hall, 5 Edinburgh Place, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2921 2840

‘Les Forains’ by Ballet Urbain
Le French May 2018 - Ballet Urbain
Image credit: Pierre Planchenault

When: 26 May, 7:45pm; 27 May, 11am

Price: HK$140–$600 from Urbtix

The ballet Les Forains debuted in 1945 as an expression of artists taking back their natural rights after World War II, and the story is revisited in the contemporary age by eight hip-hop dancers reckoning with what the piece means for performing artists today. Combining acrobatics, ballet and hip hop — featuring everything from bendy contortionist acts to slick manipulations of rhythm and flight, Le Ballet Urbain surely won’t disappoint.

Hong Kong Cultural Centre, 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong, +852 2734 2009

‘La Vie en Rose (Piaf! The Show): Tribute to Edith Piaf’

Le French May 2018 - Edith Piaf

When: 20 June, 8pm

Price: HK$280–$580 from Urbtix

If you enjoy true classic renditions of works by the exalted Madame Piaf, you’ll want a seat in this retrospective performance, with storytelling inspired by the 2007 film La Vie en Rose. Telling the story of Edith Piaf’s rise to fame in two 45-minute acts, the production is part concert, part theatre, conceived and directed by Nice-based artist Gil Marsalla, and stars Anne Carrere — who we hear cuts a mean Piaf, and is even considered to be “Edith Piaf’s legitimate musical heiress.”

City Hall, 5 Edinburgh Place, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2921 2840

‘Almond Chu & Cyrill Delettre: Dialogue’
Le French May 2018 - La Galerie
Image via Facebook

When: 4 May–4 June

There are hundreds of fascinating associated projects at Le French May, but perhaps none so relatable as this dual exhibition at La Galerie Paris 1839 featuring Hong Kong and French photographers Almond Chu and Cyrill Delettre. Showing off their crossed perspectives about Hong Kong, Chu directs his gaze onto whimsical shots of Hong Kong Dance Company star Su Shu, while Delettre hunts down the most unusual light in town after dark.

La Galerie Paris 1839, G/F, 74 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2540 4777

School of Nice – From Pop Art to Happenings
Le French May 2018 - Pop Art
Martial Raysse, “Nissa Bella”

When: 5–27 May

Think all pop art was Andy Warhol? Think again. Opening the Le French May festival is this major art exhibition put together by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMAC) in Nice, which documents the evolution of the last major art movement in postwar France. Considered only second to Centre Pompidou, the MAMAC collection brings works by influential, even pioneering, artists of the French pop art movement — Martial Raysse and Arman — who used consumer goods and referenced mass media and culture long before the likes of Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist.

City Hall, 5 Edinburgh Place, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2921 2840

Marc Chagall, Light and Colour in Southern France
Le French May 2018 - Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall

When: 1 June–26 August

While Opera Gallery is hosting ‘French Maze’, a group exhibition featuring works by 20th-century art legend Marc Chagall, fans of the painter who want a closer look at his works will want to take a hop across the pond to the Macao Museum of Art for this striking retrospective. Settling in the south of France in the ’50s, the work Chagall created during his time there captured a vibrant world exemplifying the dazzling beauty of the Mediterranean — despite having lived a life marked by war and strife. Paying special attention to Chagall’s use of light and colour, this first exhibition of Marc Chagall in Macao features paintings, gouaches, lithographs, and even costumes and tapestries.

Macao Museum of Art, Avenida Xian Xing Hai, Macao, +853 8791 9814

Reinventing the Magic Flute
Le French May 2018 - Quartet
Image credit: Neda Navaee

When: 12 May, 8pm

Price: HK$180–$380 from Urbtix

First performed in France under the name of Isis’ Mysteries in 1801, The Magic Flute emerged at a time of heavy fascination with Ancient Egypt. It’s considered as one of Mozart’s best-loved and recognised operas, and was a fabulous success upon its debut in Vienna, not to mention in France. The Zaïde Quartet brings Hong Kong audiences on a journey from The Magic Flute to Mozart’s fourth quartet — written at age 17 — and rounds off with the sheer romantic impressionism of Claude Debussy’s string quartet opus 10, which allows them to experiment and play with imitating other instruments and describing the natural elements through the traditional string quartet repertoire.

City Hall, 5 Edinburgh Place, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2921 2840

Le French May in the Valley

Le French May 2018 - French May in the Valley

When: 9, 16, 23 May

When you’re at the Happy Valley races on a Wednesday, chances are your eyes will be on your winning horse — but for three weeks during Le French May you’ll want to direct your attention to the stage instead. On the 9th, look forward to a performance by the talented a cappella band OMMM, which performs popular covers as well as their original tunes; on the 16th, watch out for part beatboxing, mind-bending hip-hop dance duo The Elem’ants; and on the 23rd, Le Syndicat du Chrome French Brass Brand will turn on the funk with Afrobeat melodies that are sure to make you want to get up and dance.

Happy Valley Racecourse, Happy Valley, Hong Kong

Jean-Christophe Cholet & Alban Darche: Jazz Tribute to Poulenc

Le French May 2018 - La Diagonale du Cube

When: 8 June, 8pm

Price: HK$300–$400 from Urbtix

Headed by Jean-Christophe Cholet, La Diagonale du Cube uniquely plays as a jazz orchestra as well as a concertino for two pianos and orchestra. This night is dedicated to the intricate masterworks of one of the most creative composers at the turn of the century: Francis Poulenc.

City Hall, 5 Edinburgh Place, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2921 2840

Evelyn Lok
Managing Editor
When not trying out the latest beauty and wellness trends, Evelyn is likely enjoying a perfectly balanced negroni or exploring some of Hong Kong's best new places to eat and drink. At Lifestyle Asia she covers everything from the biggest events in town to interviews with Hong Kong specialists, with topics spanning art, food and drink, health, tech, and travel.