Hong Kong's biggest arts festival is currently underway, with more than 170 performances over five weeks by international superstars as well as local acts.

The 2012 Hong Kong Arts Festival, which runs from 28 January to 8 March with additional performances in April, kicked off with an award-winning production of Shakespeare’s Richard III, directed by Sam Mendes and starring Kevin Spacey. Other highlights still to come include a series by the Lyon Opera Ballet that pays homage to three great choreographers: George Balanchine, Maguy Marin and Benjamin Millepied (9 to 11 February), and two Handel concerts presented by The Sixteen (24 to 25 February) that put a fresh spin on classical favourites.

In the way of more contemporary offerings, Irish playwright Brian Friel's 1979 play The Faith Healer has been reinterpreted by the UK's oldest theatre company, Bristol Old Vic (1 to 4 March and 6 to 8 March). Expect funky sounds from Tinariwen, a group of musicians and singers in exile from Mali whose haunting sounds evoke the nomadic history of North African desert dwellers (1 to 2 March).

Regional artists will also take the stage. Chinese director Lin Zhaohua presents Of Mountains and Seas, a specially-commissioned show using music, dance and shadow puppets to reimagine Nobel Prize-winner Gao Xingjian's play about Chinese supernatural stories and myths (24 to 27 February). Local playwright Wong Wing-sze examines marital strife in her play The Truth About Lying, which closes the festival in April (19 to 22 April) along with a minimalist production of Titus Andronicus performed in Cantonese -- the brainchild of famed Hong Kong director Tang Shu-wing. Titus Andronicus is the only Hong Kong show to be invited to the World Shakespeare Festival, held at London’s Globe Theatre from April to August this year.

To celebrate the festival’s 40th year, festival posters from the last four decades are on display in the foyer of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre -- one of the city's main performing arts venues -- through 4 March.

Hana R Alberts is the Hong Kong Localite for BBC Travel