In Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s 1733 comic opera La Serva Padrona (“The Maid Made Mistress”), a maid sets her sights on her boss, and through a combination of flirtatious behavior and well-meant duplicity, convinces him that he has really loved her all along. The work is small and intimate with a deceptive simplicity that belies the sophistication of the music, allowing a fusion between comic theatre and comic opera.

Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto was plagued by politics at its inception. Based on Victor Hugo’s (banned) play Le roi s’amuse, about a licentious king, the opera required considerable negotiation with the imperial Austrian censors before it could be performed in Austrian-controlled Venice. The King was demoted to a Duke, and the action moved to medieval Mantua (whose ducal family, the Gonzagas, had conveniently died out by the 19th century).

Hong Kong’s Musica Viva has incrementally moved from one full opera production per year—in December—to two. If this recent production of Mozart’s comic masterpiece is any indication, the smaller production in late September featuring entirely local singers has, over the past couple of years, matured and is hitting its stride.

By focusing on young singers, Opera Hong Kong’s summer semi-staged productions serve as one of the better crystal balls on Hong Kong’s operatic development. These late-August performances are the college basketball to the larger productions of the operatic NBA in the Spring and Fall, in which, if one is lucky, excitement and atmosphere can more than compensate for the occasional youthful lack of polish.