Opera Hong Kong’s La bohème was originally scheduled for last May, but was bumped off the schedule by the tail-end of a Covid surge. The delayed production was well worth waiting for.
Cold and rainy England and Scotland exerted what now seems a surprisingly strong pull on Italian opera composers of the first part of the 19th century. Gaetano Donizetti alone had a string of four operas about the Tudors, starting with Elisabetta al castello di Kenilworth and quickly followed by Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda and finally Roberto Devereux.
Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari is one of those composers who, like Leoncavallo and Mascagni, are pretty much mostly known for a single one-act opera. Wolf-Ferrari’s operas were phenomenally popular at the time, in the decade or so before WW1, but Il segreto di Susanna, which debuted in Munich in 1909, is the only one that still has regular outings and it seems to have been rediscovered in the past few years. The overture can appear as a stand-alone piece, and the aria “O gioia la nube leggera” is, or at least was, a not uncommon recital piece.
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.