As part of the new Italia Mia festival and in a joint production of the Italian Cultural Institute and Opera Hong Kong, soprano Wang Bing Bing headlined an instrumental vocal and lyrical recital entitled “Passion of Italy”. Ironically better known in Europe, where she has sung leading roles in Italy, Latvia, Serbia and Gerogia, than closer to home in Hong Kong, Wang sang a selection of mostly Italian arias, joined in duets by Hong Kong tenor Chen Chen. Individually and together, they sang what are affectionately called “warhorses” from Il Trovatore, Madama Butterfly and L’Elisir d’Amore.
They were accompanied by the Klassik Swing Italian Quartet, made up of violinist Günther Sanin, pianist Roberto Corlianò, Ivano Avesani on the doublebass and—perhaps mostly intriguingly for an opera recital—accordionist Gianfranco De Lazzari. The accordion, often acting as a stand-in for the orchestra, added something of a gypsy flavor to some of the orchestral pieces, particularly Rossini’s overture to the Barber of Seville.
“Passion” does not always include “innovation”, but Corlianò treated the audience—over what was advertised in the programme as being “intermission”—to a touching and sensuous new piano solo rendition of “Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix” from Camille Saint-Saëns’s Samson and Delilah , These transcriptions of opera music are evidently something of a specialty for Corlianò; he played others with the Quartetto d’Archi dell’Arena di Verona (which also includes violinist Günther Sanin) at He Hui’s recent recital tour in China.
The “passion” spilled over into the audience, with Hong Kong tenor Warren Mok being pulled onstage for an aria and a a couple of duets, while Wang sauntered up the aisles during her (not-very-Italian but entirely suitable) encore of Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß from Franz Lehár’s Giuditta.
Held on 26 October, “Passion of Italy” was one of several free concerts offered during this inaugural festival.
Peter Gordon is editor of the Asian Review of Books.