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.

We have been here before. In 1220 the Mongols sacked Afghanistan, scattering its artists and musicians in all directions. The Sufi poet Rumi wound up in Konya, in today’s Turkey, but the majority of these refugees fled into neighboring India, where they were warmly welcomed by culture hungry audiences. They contributed to the development of Hindustani music, whose modern avatar is Bollywood music. I wonder today if the musicians chased out of Afghanistan today will leave such echoes of their musical exile. If they do, it will be because of the tireless touring of masters like Daud Khan Sadozai, who recently performed at Lisbon’s Fundacão Oriente.

The brilliant set of the Opera Hong Kong’s new production of Madama Butterfly, which opened on 6 October, is a panel set a few meters back from the front of the stage that emulates the front of a Japanese house. The room itself is set into this panel almost 2 meters above the stage floor. The ingenuity of the design however is that it also serves as a screen onto which full stage-wide and stage-high projections are cast: designs from Japanese prints, seascapes, crashing waves, gardens, calligraphy. The effects range from artistic to evocative or illusory.