A novel set in capitalist Hong Kong in the 1960s and steeped in alcohol, prostitution and stream-of-consciousness narration might not suggest a controlled work of fiction. Yet Liu Yichang’s classic The Drunkard, in Charlotte Chun-lam Yiu’s new translation, is measured, uninhibited and very good.
Made in Hong Kong seeks to reframe the city’s role in the modern history of US foreign policy and globalization by focusing on a group of “mobile, pragmatic, and adaptive” Chinese elites author Peter E Hamilton calls kuashang, or “straddling merchants”. An academic study of families whose profitable relationships straddled the US, colonial Hong Kong and China, the book provides another perspective on how this small, crowded city’s economy grew so strong so fast in the decades before the handover.
Gaetano Donizetti’s Rita dates from between 1839 and 1841 at a time when the composer was in Paris. Still unperformed at the time of his death in 1848, Rita finally premiered in May 1860 at the Opéra-Comique.It remained relatively obscure, but has been rediscovered and is increasingly performed, with several new productions in 2020 alone, including this one in a new arrangement for chamber ensemble by music director Marco Iannelli.
Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), a leading contributor to the bel canto opera style, was one of the first composers who channeled drama and emotion to the stage with music in a time when the singers’ part was considered key to conveying emotions instead. His one-act opera Rita, posthumously premiered 160 years ago, was one such example,and may make the point again when locally-based Italian music director Marco Iannelli revives it in Hong Kong.
Chorus members sported masks, so this Opera Hong Kong production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro wasn’t quite a return to complete normality, but the socially-distanced audience for the first Hong Kong opera performance in almost a year enthusiastically took what they could get.
The Asian Review of Books is not given to running op-eds, but a recent article in Electric Lit entitled “Where Is Hong Kong Literature When We Need It Most?” merits some reflection.
Despite travel bans, quarantines and social distancing, a delegation of dazzling (and unmasked) Italians have taken up temporary residence at Hong Kong’s Museum of Art.