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More than Musical

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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