Why me? Why opera? Why More than Musical?

Hi, this is Serena Pau, Head of Production Committee at More than Musical. Being a tech startup founder, a lot of people are surprised to find out that my other passion is in show production/music, as A) it is not logical like the tech world and B) I don’t even play any musical instrument in a proper manner. Having to run a tech startup is already quite a heavy workload and in fact, why would I want to be volunteering as head of production and gain experience in production?

Well, passion is very often developed when you are young, with or without knowing it. I started my “show biz” when I was 8 in school and was acting as a parrot in an interschool drama competition and our show back then was “The Jungle Story”. Honestly, I do not recall much of the show details since I was acting in at least another 10 shows till I was 18, but one thing is still impactful to me: the costumes and make up I had over the 10 years.

I grew up in a family with love for performing art: opera, classical music, Chinese opera, musicals etc were part of our family events in the past time and I really enjoyed the value of live shows, now being in one myself. Imagine if you go to an opera and the costume look outdated, the actors are wrongly chose and the lighting was totally off, what would your impression be? Every small detail in a show matters as they affect each other and they all have to be delivered at the show at the right time.

 

I believe my passion in building a tech startup could easily be applied at the Kiss of Tosca production, it is all about sourcing the right resources to deliver the show at the right time. Costume making and make-up artist alignment are my major duty and these two parties have never met but yet they have to work closely with each other. The most difficult thing of all however is, we need to make sure both parties understand what our director and designer Nic Muni wants and Nic is based in the USA while we are based in Hong Kong. Let alone language barrier with all the technical terms being translated and the time zone difference, design communication has never been easy. There were still communication issues especially with the costume, how can we describe a fabric swatch and discuss about it just on video calls? The costumes are extremely costly and to me, the most important part of the show and we have to make it right, as this is the first impression that we are creating to the audience.

 

I am extremely thankful that I have found very hard working and passionate teammates like Cindy from Cindyalan who is a third generation tailor and Li our make-up artist, who has extensive experience in concerts and movies. Without such a passionate team, we could hardly make things move forward. Both ladies are serious in what they are going to deliver and are ready to go for the extra miles without being pushed by the More than Musical team.

 

The story does not stop here as the hair piece of Tosca is yet to be delivered form Rhode Island to Hong Kong before the show and our stage production team is busy with the props, the stage platform and the lighting ques. I could hardly imagine even if a chair is missing, what would happened. 

#thebestisyettocome

21st October 2018

In the making of The Kiss of Tosca

Hi, this is Lucy, co-founder of More Than Musical. People are usually quite fascinated by how much time and effort it took us to put an opera together, I would share with you some facts behind the production of The Kiss of Tosca.

The soul of our The Kiss of Tosca is our Director/Artistic Director Mr. Nic Muni, hence the first step to create this Opera was to discuss with Nic, regarding to his vision. We confirmed the repertoire (i.e. which opera we are presenting), the venue and the performance dates around 1 year ago.

At around the same time we confirmed that we are presenting a 90mins adaptation of Puccini’s Tosca, we started to find our talents – how many singers do we need? What are the voice types? They must be available for our performance dates plus 10-14 extra dates prior the Premiere for rehearsals, hence locking their schedules is a very important step.

After 2-3 months after we have decided that we are presenting The Kiss of Tosca, our Director started to share his drawings with us, began with the floor & lighting plans. As we are presenting the opera at Annex, a black-box style venue with no fixed seats, we are basically renting an “empty box” with no infrastructure and technical support.  We are bringing in every single light, projectors, screen, chairs and furniture you are seeing in the Opera!

From the moment we got the drawings from Director, we started to work closely with our Production manager and vendors to sort out big items like projectors & screens, smaller but essential items like pops and costumes. As we are a new opera company, we are very tight in budget and human resources, hence we spend a lot of time to source for the best of values – in terms of price and effect. Trust me, each time you come to our opera, you are experiencing a world-class opera production!

On the other hand, we also needed to start planning for PR & Marketing. How and where should we be advertising? What parties/organizations can we collaborate with? When should we start selling tickets? What is our Marketing and PR plan? What is the point of creating beautiful operas without reaching to as many as we can? We need to put the same effort in creating the production as well as to spread our word. We started selling tickets of The Kiss of Tosca in July, since then, we have been monitoring our ticket sales, social media accounts closely, to attract more eyeballs and website traffics.

Every day, our core team members and volunteers are working very hard behind the scene, as we want to bring you a moment of magic and an escape from the world by coming to our operas.

Tosca and I

I am Rumiko Hasegawa, Founder of More Than Musical. I remember clearly my first opera aria on a stage was Puccini's "Vissi D'Arte Vissi D'Amore" ("I lived for art, I lived for love") from Tosca 13 years ago. It was quite a transition from Madonna's "Material Girl". I was working on the trading floor of American investment bank, Tokyo office, headed a sales desk covering Japanese clients and my Madonna was a big hit.

It was so random when another working mother friend talked me into starting a new hobby - singing opera aria. She said, "It is terrible! We have no hobby! Let's sing opera aria!". One of my usual sayings is "Why not?" and I say it on the trading floor to try new ideas and approaches. So I said "Why not?" to her.

My first singing lesson was a disaster. But it was fun to sing beautiful Italian opera arias with a piano. I got totally hooked. As the teacher was brave and I was shameless, we chose "Vissi D'Arte Vissi D'Amore" as my aria for the first concert. Then vigorous practice began. Singing every night at home in a walk-in closet, door closed, and every weekend at a lesson exposed me to an opportunity to express the feeling of love and hatred passionately. I found the emotional outlet. I revealed myself and started to feel comfortable being vulnerable. I feel human.

I was running at the fastest pace on the trading floor, leading a sales team and trying to be a good mother. I had had no time for myself and stopped breathing deep to look into myself. What a different life I rediscovered!

"I live for art and I live for love" is a perfect song at this stage of my life. Starting "More Than Musical" and surrounded with my loving family and friends to pursue my passion of opera is just PERFECT! 

“La Traviata”, Verdi’s lover “in sin”

“La Traviata” is Verdi’s biographic opera.

Verdi was living with a very famous opera singer, Giuseppina Strepponi, “in sin” for a number of years.  In those days, singers were considered more or less a prostitute and she was pregnant five times previously.  They lived in Paris and then moved to countryside just like Violetta and Alfredo.

Violetta was modeled after a real person, Marie Duplessis, who was a mistress of Alexandre Dumas, a novelist.  He wrote a story “Lady of the Camellia”, based on their own love life. Marie was an icon courtesan. People in the social crowd in Paris looked up as she was the most sophisticated, elegant, beautiful, fashionable woman on earth and also looked down as she was at last a prostitute.  Duma did not marry Marie…

You got a picture of Violatta’s social status as “demi monde”(a class of women considered to be of doubtful social standing and morality in 19th century Paris)?

Verdi and Strepponi saw its play and Verdi composed the opera immediately. Verdi performed this opera in Paris and it created a big scandal. It was too realistic and made the “demi monde” public. It showed “hypocrisy” of the society up to people’s faces. Too revealing and confronting.

Here is our opera director, Nic Muni’s note about “La Traviata”. You would see why “La Traviata”  is still relevant and matter to us NOW.

La Traviata is a story about social and religious hypocrisy.

Wealthy men were permitted mistresses, they were permitted to attend all-night parties of the demi-monde, which were in essence, orgies. Orgies of the senses, of libido and of gastronomy. That these same men simultaneously insisted on virginal behavior by the women in their familial circles created a dilemma for women: if you were independent, sexually and otherwise, you were outcast from respectable and respected society.

In order to depict this dilemma, it is critical that Violetta, as elegant as she is, is portrayed for what she actually is: a prostitute who trades physical intimacy for financial gain. She is beautiful, intelligent, well-mannered, elegant and gracious. She gives pleasure to men, not only sexually but emotionally and psychologically—and she is so expert at these acts of love that men are addicted to her company.

So, it is understandable to deplore her lifestyle, even to be offended by it. But then she truly falls in love and gives up her lucrative and licentious lifestyle, completely and permanently. Can a person be forgiven for their mistakes, however heinous? Can a woman be forgiven?

That is the critical question of the piece. And I’m afraid that Verdi’s answer—not his own, but that of society’s as he saw it--is a resounding “no”.

Allow yourself to be offended by the behavior of some of the characters. Allow yourself to feel sympathy with Violetta’s plight, to struggle with Germont’s request, to pity Alfredo’s rage. By stripping away the veneer of traditional opera production, by presenting it in a very intimate setting, by shortening and focusing the operas themselves, it is our fondest hope that you will become involved in whatever way the evening moves you. The important thing is to allow yourself to be affected.

 

Welcome to MTM opera blog

Thank you for visiting our blog!

I am Rumiko Hasegawa, Founder of More Than Musical in Hong Kong.  To start off, I want to introduce myself and More Than Musical.

I often get asked why I started an opera company after retiring as a Goldman Sachs partner. It was definitely quite a career change!

I started singing opera arias about twelve years ago in Tokyo as a hobby when I was busy at work and taking care of my family. During this time, I experienced a magical moment. I found that singing opera arias lifted the lid off my heart. It was a spiritual experience, as these beautiful operas touched my heart and I even found myself with tears coming out of my eyes. I felt as though my soul got purified with the power of opera.

This got me thinking, why are there not more people interested in opera?

Reasons could include:

“It’s too long!”

“3 hours at the concert hall with thousand of strangers who seem to know what’s going on.”

“I am the only one who doesn’t know anything. It’s too intimidating!”

“I don't know the story and don't understand the language.”

 

OK! I hear you!

So I decided to start a new company to present opera to people’s lifestyle and to make opera accessible. We will break the barriers that keep people away from opera.

Yes! We will present an opera in 90 minutes, which is a commercial movie length. We will have a bar that you and some friends hang out at and before the opera, and meet the artists afterwards.

It will be located at a small intimate venue with no stage set up. The audience will surround the singers, and they will be up close and personal with them. Close enough that you can see the singer’s facial expressions!

I could not go on this journey alone, as I am very lucky to have Lucy Choi as my co-founder and Wei-En Hsu as our artistic director. They are just as crazy about opera as I am!

 

Our first opera “La Traviata” will be presented on June 17th and 18th at ArtisTree in Taikoo Place. The tickets are already all sold out! Thank you for your support!

We invited an opera director, Nic Muni, from the U.S. and he will also conduct two master classes on June 16th. It will be open for ticket reservation soon.

We will also have two opera workshop “Opera Inside Out” on July 2nd at PMQ as a part of HK 20th anniversary of Hand-Over celebration program.

I will upload weekly blog every Wednesday to share how to enjoy opera, especially “La Traviata”.

Please stay tuned!

Rumiko

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