“Hey! Are you up for hanging out this weekend? There’s an opera in Hong Kong that I really wanna see…”
“Opera… seriously? Operas are boring and expensive. They’re for the rich old guys. What about a movie instead?”
Does this conversation sound familiar to you? If not, have you ever thought of opera as a boring and expensive past-time for the wealthy elderly? Say yes, and read on until this article completely debunks the top six myths about opera.
1. Operas are boring
This is probably the most commonly held misconception about operas. The truth is, most if not all operas are packed with convoluted yet riveting storylines that can absolutely grasp your attention throughout the performance. Sometimes they can even be more intense than movies! Not sure what this means? Opera Hong Kong’s latest performance of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci is a case in point to illustrate this.
The imaginary story of Cavalleria Rusticana is set on an Easter morning when Turridu’s lover, Santuzza suspected that Turridu was cheating on her and sleeping with his mistress Lola. Outraged and driven by mounting jealousy, Santuzza informed Lola’s husband, Alfio, of Lola’s misbehaviour. Alfio was infuriated. He challenged Turridu to a duel, and a bloody Easter Monday entailed.
Pagliacci, on the other hand, was inspired by a real-life murder story. In the opera, Canio was the head and clown of a troupe of travelling street performers. His flirtatious wife Nedda was concurrently pursued by two other men: Silvo whom she loved, and troupe actor Tonio whom she spurned. When Tonio told Canio about his unfaithful wife’s affair, the cuckolded clown set ready with a knife against his wife during the performance… Is this part of the troupe’s performance or a real act of revenge.
2. Operas are for the old people
A big no. Many perceive operas as dramas based on old stories performed by actors and actresses in old costumes doing what people did some 400 years ago. What they don’t know is that some contemporary operas come with exciting, modern twists. For instance, characters in La Traviata would write letters to each other with pens and papers if it was performed a decade ago. In More Than Musical’s adaptation of this classic opera, however, performers would dig out their smartphones, swiftly press a few buttons on the screen and send text messages instead. The twist to the original masterpiece has not only made this a modernized production, but also a unique opera in Hong Kong.
3. Operas in Hong Kong are for the rich
They were, but they aren’t. Indeed operas used to be entertainment for guests of the courts, foreign diplomats and royal families, but this is no longer the case now. Operas may be expensive if you see them in European countries with high costs of living, but an opera in Hong Kong is definitely affordable for the average audience. At only $100HKD, you can buy your way to Opera Hong Kong’s performance (a balcony seat, set at a far distance from the stage). Alternatively, you can choose the immersive, stageless opera experience that allows close-up contact and even chit-chats over liquor with opera performers with More Than Musical at just $250HKD! In any event, it is for sure that opera ticket prices aren’t as expensive as you thought.
4. Operas in Hong Kong are serious events
Yes and no. Of course operas are performances to which the audience has to pay respect, but it is not necessary to go to great lengths to dress up before you see an opera in Hong Kong. Flip-flops and ragged jeans would be too casual to be respectful, but you will be fine with a nice and comfortable outfit for an opera in Hong Kong. For ladies, this may even be the perfect night to find yourself an excuse to add a new collection to your wardrobe and get into your pretty outfit!
5. Opera performances are long and dull
Not true. Whilst some opera performances can last up to five hours long, it usually takes you much less time to see an opera in Hong Kong. In fact, the average opera in Hong Kong spans only three hours with a 15-minute intermission, and More Than Musical’s productions are even shorter at 90 minutes to cater to the audiences’ tight schedules and fast pace of life.
6. Operas are incomprehensible
Not really. As you may already know, stories are sung and acted out in an opera. Usually the performers sing in English, but sometimes they may sing in a foreign language like Italian. Either way, the opera’s synopsis in the programme booklet should be able to guide you through all important events in the storyline. And don’t worry if you don’t speak any foreign language — an opera in Hong Kong should have supertitles (in English) projected above the stage if it is performed in another language!