In his heyday in the years after World War Two, Italian-American composer Gian Carlo Menotti was arguably one of the most successful and popular opera composers of the time. He took advantage of the circumstances, writing works that could be performed both on the opera stage and Broadway. His “Christmas opera”, Amahl and the Night Visitors, was the first opera specifically composed for television, at least in United States, and was a staple of pre-Christmas television for many years.
Opera in Hong Kong is back. Of course, it never quite went away, but after intermittent cancellations of major productions as recently as this spring, Opera Hong Kong’s fall production is a gloriously defiant La Traviata.
Musica Viva has recently taken to doing a Mozart opera each year, and this year’s selection of Don Giovanni, when the composer was at the height of his powers, was at the other end of the scale from last year’s La Finta Semplice, written was Mozart was just twelve.
Don Pasquale is the last of Gaetano Donizetti’s great trio of comic operas which includes L’elisir d’amore and La fille du régiment. And it was to this classic that Opera Hong Kong turned for a lighter entry for this summer’s semi-staged production at Hong Kong City Hall.
The Italian Cultural Institute Hong Kong’s production of Gaetano Donizetti’s Rita, originally performed at the 2020 Italia Mia Festival, has been adapted and reprised at the Guangzhou Opera House. Performed “in the round” and reset to emulate the Theatre’s own bar, the performance featured soprano Xing Xingyuan as Rita, tenor Lin Junliang as Beppe and baritone Zhong Haodong as Gasparo. Zheng Honghao conducted a chamber ensemble in Italian composer Marco Iannelli’s new arrangement.
Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880) is primarily represented in opera’s “standard repertory” by Les contes d’Hoffmann, but he made his name in operetta (opérette), a form which came into its own in mid-19th century Paris in large part due to Offenbach’s own contributions. Dating from 1873, Pomme d’Api is a one-act comic operetta from the latter part of his career, an intimate domestic rom-com for soprano, baritone and tenor.
In a pair of school-day matinees on 25 and 27 May, Hong Kong’s Musica Viva—back in the operatic saddle as local Covid restrictions ease—presented an abridged version George Frideric Handel’s baroque masterpiece Giulio Cesare.