Cantonese is only rarely included as part of broader discourses on language, but journalist James Griffiths (who lives in Hong Kong) has it as one of three languages considered in detail in his new book Speak Not: Empire, Identity and the Politics of Language.
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.
In order to think about what it means to be a Hong Kong poet, one must first think about Hong Kong itself. It was famously labelled a borrowed place on borrowed time: it may since been returned, but if anything, Hong Kong can at times seem less permanent than ever, and Hong Kong poets have lived through transitions, particularly in the last two decades.
Written when the composer was just 12, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s La Finta Semplice qualifies as a real rarity. After a performance the year following its composition, it dropped from the repertoire and was not staged again until modern times. That Musica Viva’s recent production at Hong Kong’s City Hall was a premiere seems beyond doubt, the only question being over how large a geographical area.
Australian broadcast journalist Mimi Kwa comes from a lineage going back to imperial Beijing. In her new family memoir, House of Kwa, she tells the remarkable story that brought her father’s family to Southern China, Hong Kong, and Western Australia.
Perhaps it was being forced to skip a year that prompted Opera Hong Kong to step outside the normal commercial comfort zone and program Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi for this year’s summer semi-staged production at City Hall. Whatever the genesis of the decision, it was a fortuitous choice.
The narrator in Pik-Shuen Fung’s debut novel, Ghost Forest, is a child in an “astronaut” family. As anyone who has ever orbited Hong Kong knows, this term was coined there to describe families that emigrated—usually to Canada, Australia or the United States—while the fathers stay back to work, “flying here, flying there”. It’s a resulting father-daughter relationship that provides the backbone of Fung’s novel, arranged as a collection of related vignettes, mostly one or two pages, but sometimes consisting of only several words.