City Hall Concert Hall
Opera Hong Kong is staging a gala concert tomorrow evening to promote young Chinese artists. The headliners are four rising stars from the mainland who have already begun to make their mark internationally: (clockwise from top left) Liu Songhiu, Yu Guanqun, Wang Hongxing and Sun Xiuwei.
'They have won many prizes around the world and they're very talented,' says the company's artistic director, Warren Mok Wah-lun.
'Sun is a little senior to the others; she is the Madama Butterfly [of her generation] and has already done more than 150 performances of the role around the world.'
No fewer than 10 local soloists will perform as will the opera's chorus and children's chorus. 'So it's the whole force of Opera Hong Kong on display,' Mok says. 'All that's lacking is the orchestra - because we don't have funding. So we're using piano. But that's actually not bad - it allows you to really hear the voices.'
The programme promises to be entertaining, with a list of favourites such as Habanera and Toreador from Bizet's Carmen, La Donna ? Mobile from Verdi's Rigoletto and Nessun Dorma from Puccini's Turandot. It may not be original but, as Mok says, familiar songs appeal to Hongkongers. Times are tough for the opera, which depends on sponsorship.
The company's next production should have been Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann in this year's Le French May but sponsorship could not be found, so it will hold three concerts instead.
Opera Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra are co-presenting an hour of highlights from the opera on April 29 and 30. There will be three performances for schools and one for adults, all free of charge. Mok says invitations have been sent out to 5,000 children and 1,600 adults and will be on a first-come, first-served basis. He says he is grateful for the philharmonic's support.
'Normally we'd hire them, but this time we will jointly present - there's no charge to us and we share the costs. If we had to hire them, we couldn't do anything!'
Tales of Hoffmann has just been staged in Singapore. The opera company in the city state receives a government subsidy of about 50 per cent of its annual budget compared to the 1 per cent the local troupe gets from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council.
'Singapore can do it, but Hong Kong cannot. It's shameful,' Mok says. He contrasts the situation here with his 10 years as director of the Macau International Music Festival. 'It's a joy to work there because it's fully government funded. I just do the artistic side ... Here I have to do everything - fund-raising, programming, everything.'
Despite his frustration with the overall lack of government support, Mok pays tribute to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which subsidises one production per year - the next will be Mozart's The Magic Flute this autumn.
5 Edinburgh Place, Central, HK$80-HK$280. Inquiries: 2234 0303. For details of the Apr 29 and 30 concerts with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, call 2721 2030