Friday, January 18, 2013

REVIEW: A Decade of OPERA HONG KONG



As Opera Hong Kong celebrates it 10-year anniversary, I reflect on my feeling toward this organization.

Nothing shouts cultural sophistication more than having an opera house and a resident opera company. Unfortunately, both aspects require huge and consistent financial support. What I believe Opera HK has achieved in the last decade is that it managed to find enough funding to consistently come up with an average of two operas a year. Its willingness to explore western style Chinese language opera is admirable but it still has to show the same keenness on western opera. With a vast catalog to exploit, OHK seemed far too comfortable in repeating same operas, e.g. Carmen and La Traviata. As a company, it also managed to have an education programme to not only enhance the current pool of local talents but also create awareness and interest in opera. Having said that, there is a lack of consistency in the quality of its productions; and this may be brought about by the almost "ad-hoc" nature of each production.

Actually, one of the organization's greatest successes in my humble opinion would be the organization itself. Having the vision and tenacity to create awareness and grow the art form is important to ensure that it has a role in the West Kowloon Cultural District. It has been the worry of the arts community whether there is the software to match the hardware in the future, and the community should be glad that Opera Hong Kong is actually doing something about it. The organization is far from perfect, but the past ten years should have provided it the experiences and credibility it needs to bring the organization to the next level.

On the surface OHK has provided more operas for the city to appreciate. Prior to OHK, the tendency was to have one locally produced opera by the same director every year. With OHK, we saw it slowly grew with an opera concert in 2004 to three fully-staged operas in 2012 with the participation of various directors. It is the next ten years, however, that will be most important for OHK. The learning and coping period is over; and the community would expect to see more from OHK.

Opera incorporates different performing art ensembles, e.g. orchestra, dance company and chorus. How OHK creates synergistic alliances with other performing art companies in Hong Kong would determine the organizational model and future of the company. It will also determine whether it can become a true professional opera company or continue to be a community opera organizer with an amateur chorus on the side. On orchestra alone, OHK has worked with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, Hong Kong Virtuosi, Macao Orchestra, Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra and Shanghai Opera House Orchestra to name a few. While this may broaden the experience of OHK and its stable of local talents, the reality is that these orchestras are not of equal ranks and it definitely showed in their performances. It may be due to scheduling and/or budget that they needed to work with different orchestras, BUT it is these kind of operational and administrative aspects that the next ten years should be able to iron out.

For my personal TOP 5 Opera Hong Kong productions, and an interview with founder and artistic director Warren Mok (by Mark Tjhung) click here and it will lead you to TIME OUT HK!

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