Rather than mounting a second production, Hong Kong’s newest opera company, “More than Musical”, decided to reprise La Traviata, first shown here in June. This was probably a wise decision, artistically and logistically; after all, due to the deliberately small size of the spaces that the company uses for intimacy, only a few hundred people—fewer in total than fit in even one of Hong Kong’s smaller traditional venues—saw it last time. The performances themselves benefited from what was in effect a longer run of six, rather than just three, outings.

On November 18th of this year, a blaze killed nineteen people in a textile manufacturing district of Beijing. Most of the victims were migrant workers, scores of whom continue to live peripheral lives in makeshift, pop-up neighborhoods on the outskirts of major cities across China. In response to the tragedy, the city government instituted a forty-day effort to demolish the capital’s “unsafe” buildings, the result of which has been mass evictions with tens of thousands of homeless migrant workers freezing in wintry Beijing temperatures. Described in official documents as the “low-end population”, these workers—battalions of couriers, cleaners, day laborers, trash collectors—provide the essential service jobs upon which Beijing’s more affluent residents rely.

Musica Viva’s current production of Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème is a vivid justification for Hong Kong’s support of two opera companies. Different strategies yield different outcomes, to the great advantage of Hong Kong’s cultural scene. Musica Viva’s use of, in general, younger singers (“young” in opera being a relative term) and Director-General Kingman Lo’s focus on ensemble singing, lead to performances that are accessible and immediate.