TEMPESTUOUS scenes befitting a Puccini opera were enacted at the Hongkong Cultural Centre where the Hongkong Philharmonia, a 60-piece orchestra made up of musicians from various musical outfits, was rehearsing for an operatic performance. Enter stage left Ms Edith Lei, personnel manager of the Hongkong Philharmonic Orchestra, who, in a style worthy of the Keystone Cops, brusquely interrupted the proceedings in mid-La Boheme. Flashing her identity card, Ms Lei demanded that four of the players - Ronald Wilson, Li Ming Lu, Jennifer Keeney and Chao Qian - pack up their instruments and leave immediately. She was, it seems, holding the four to the letter of their Philharmonic contracts, the stringent terms of which have been a source of much acrimony over the years. There was much pushing and shoving (with violin bows poised menacingly) as Ms Lei strode into the orchestra and attempted to enforce her orders. She met staunch resistance from, among others, Mr Marcus Lehmann, the Philharmonic's acting concertmaster, who is sitting out a difficult contractual relationship with Ms Lei and her superiors. Mr Lehmann, who recently settled a suit for damages against the Phil as a result of tripping over a carpet, was heard admonishing Ms Lei. He commanded her in firm stentorian voice to ''get out''. Meanwhile, conductor Mr Jerome Hoberman - having given up searching the score to see whether this scenario was scripted - could only look on appalled, clutching his baton. At first the four players were reluctant to leave. But after veiled threats of dismissal were issued by Ms Lei (and Mr Lehmann deeming that discretion was the better part of valour) they packed up and left, leaving the 60-piece plot with only 56. It is understood that lawyers are now busy writing the next scene.