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.
There is no earthly reason to write about the new off-Broadway musical Romeo & Bernadette except that it’s very clever. Mark Saltzman has repurposed some 300 hundred years of Italian song—Giordani through de Curtis with side trips via Rossini, Bellini, Leoncavallo, Cannio and Falvo—as songs and lyrics of a thoroughly modern (albeit 1960s-retro) musical.
Between Opera Hong Kong, Musica Viva, the Hong Kong Arts Festival and the Italia Mia Festival, Hong Kong’s opera year began to fill out.
2019 has been a standout year for Chinese soprano He Hui: the debut of three new roles; a successful run at the Met, including her debut Met Live in HD performance in Madama Butterfly and her 15th consecutive year (a first for a soprano) of singing at the Arena di Verona. And this weekend, He comes full circle as she returns to the Shanghai Grand Theatre, where she made her operatic debut in 1998, to perform Turandot, the Chinese princess of Puccini’s opera of the same name.
If there is any work that typifies “Viennese operetta”—waltzes, romantic comedy, catchy tunes and a certain silliness—it is Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow.