In a series of matinees ending today, Hong Kong’s Musica Viva presented George Bizet’s Carmen to audiences of secondary school students for whom this was the likely the first (Western) opera performance most had ever attended.
The most notable thing about the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts’s current run of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera Idomeneo is that it is happening at all, a socially-distanced audience and performers all in masks (the medical rather than commedia dell’arte kind) being concessions to the situation.
When Shek Yang was a little girl at the end of the 1700s along what came to be known as the “China Coast”, she lost her mother and newborn brother within hours. To make up for the loss of his son, her father trained Shek Yang in sailing, fishing and other seafaring skills. But he couldn’t prepare her for what was to come. His gambling debts accumulated and after selling his boat, he sold Shek Yang to a floating brothel, euphemistically called a flower boat. And so begins Larry Feign’s new book—and his first historical novel—The Flower Boat Girl, which tells of the real-life Shek Yang’s rise to become one of the fiercest pirates in the South China Sea in the early 19th century.
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.