If you are a local, you know how the saying goes: 「行街睇戲食飯。」 The well-known colloquial expression describes the typical night out for people living in 21st-century Hong Kong - shopping, dining, then going to the movies. And the place for your hangout? It is always at one shopping mall or another. If your family and friends start to complain about the predictable routine, or if you are desperate for a spark of an idea for your next date with the person of your dreams, the More than Musical gigs are here to spice up your evening by filling it with 2 hours of lovely music, and of course - a late-night drink with your companions.
Who is More Than Musical? What do they do?
More Than Musical is a registered non-governmental organization dedicated to bringing opera and other classical music concerts to the Hong Kong community. The goal of the MTM team is to make the theatre up close and personal to the audience of the 21st century. Since 2017, they have put on live performances ranging from modern renditions of Verdi’s La Traviata and Puccini’s Tosca, to light-hearted gigs where guests got to enjoy a night of jazz and cocktails. The team provides various opportunities for young members of the chorus to perfect their skills, while ensuring the shows are of the best ones that are available in town - the latest production, “A Night of Deadly Love”, features the exceptional Stefan Gordan and Michelle Lange from the American Vocal Studio, who sang about the tragedies of love in front of a full house at the cosy Salon 10 bar.
#1 popular belief: “Thanks but I will pass. The theatre is SO last-century.”
Well, you are not wrong because the theatre does have a rich and colourful history that is worth celebrating. Even if you are just talking about the history of opera, its intellectual origins can be traced way back to Handel’s works from the Baroque period (1600-1750). Not only is the opera house a place for the best of artists to realize their aspirations, but it has also been a safe haven for playwrights to make their point on socio-political issues. They have depicted what was regarded as scandalous, such as the seducing female figure in Carmen, and fearlessly questioned the social and political structures of their times. On one hand, the MTM team pays tribute to the tradition in its every production by inviting top-notch performers to reenact the critical scenes of opera masterpieces. On the other hand, the team have worked on modernizing the theatre culture so that the productions are more than operas belonging to centuries passed. Do check out the La Traviata trailer on www.morethanmusical.org and you will see that for once cellphone use was allowed in the theatre as a prop for the contemporary setting of the production. Opera is just for the silver generation? Think again.
#2 popular belief “Opera is for the upper crust. I won’t be able to connect with the story nor the performers.”
Most of us might be under the impression that opera is always exclusive to the upper class and portrays a world that is far removed from the everyday life of the general public. In fact, research shows that the first opera house catered for music lovers from all walks of life. The art form maintained as popular entertainment for many urban Europeans and Americans throughout the late 18th and 19th centuries, and the opera house was often the meeting place of all social classes (Storey 32-33). You may think, “Still, I won’t be able to understand the opera stories.” No worries! In MTM gigs you will not need to deal with the generation gap between you and the guy who wrote the opera a century ago. Similar to other literary forms of expression, operas are incredibly personal as they are all about human emotions conveyed through the medium of vocal cords, body movements, and instrumental music. Friendship and loyalty, love and hatred… surely there is something for everyone to resonate with. What is special about the MTM live shows is that, not only are the adaptations modern and relatable, but the team has also broken the fourth wall between performers and the audience. Have you ever had the experience where you went to your favourite singer’s concert, but it was held in such a huge venue that all you could see was the top of his/her head? Good news - you don’t need to bring concert binoculars to our live shows. You will get to share a more intimate space with the singers as MTM gigs are held in small, cosy venues where you can see clearly the scene of action and feel strongly the impact of the human voice. The singers will not be out of your league - you can stay after the performance to share a drink with them at the open bar and raise any questions you have on the opera!
#3 popular belief “I don’t have the time for this. Opera gigs are too long and boring.”
For those who think they might just doze off to sleep if the show lasts as long as the final Avengers movie (3-hour length), don’t worry about it. The MTM team has made the productions accessible to the modern audience and as for now, each programme runs for approximately 100 minutes. It will be like watching your average commercial movie, with just a few extra benefits in store. Ever wish you could refill your glass at the theatre? There is an open bar before and during the programme for the audience to quench their thirst while taking their time to digest what just happened on stage. Try attending one of MTM’s live performances and you might just change your mind on opera!