XXIV - 2015

Singer and founder of Opera Hong Kong Warren Mok is a practical dreamer


PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 November, 2015, 11:11am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 November, 2015, 5:11pm

Warren Mok considers himself a dreamer - but a practical one. The idea of a "practical dreamer" may seem like an oxymoron, but the opera singer and founder of Opera Hong Kong explains: "I have my dreams, but I know where I stand. You have to find a balance, [find out] where you stand, and go from there. Don't overestimate yourself but don't undervalue yourself either."

Mok was recalling his ultimate dream, back in the day, to become an opera singer. He admits at one point he "hesitated" and questioned his goals.

"After I got my master's degree from Manhattan School of Music, I hesitated a little bit. I went to take the GMAT and [was accepted] into Pace University to study for an MBA." 

Lucky for the musical world, Mok re-evaluated his dreams, determined where he stood, and gave his dream one more chance. 

"I gave myself a deadline," he recalls. "If I didn't succeed [as a musician] by age 30, I would give up."

Mok would go on to audition and be selected to take part in the Berlin Opera as its first Asian singer. It's been 30 years since and the singer admits he has "never looked back".

Taking an active role within the musical society, Mok is not only founder of Opera Hong Kong, but is also artistic director for Macao International Music Festival and has produced numerous operas within the region. He has served as an adviser for the Shanghai Opera House, Shanghai Symphony and China National Opera House. He also finds time to perform in productions himself - his most recent being his rendition of the Italian opera "Tosca", which he brought to Hong Kong with Opera Hong Kong. 

Mok's particular art of choice has an interesting relationship with the concept of time. "The operas we sing, like Tosca, are all over 100 years old," he says. "People [often] ask me why I'm doing it."

For Mok, what makes opera singing stand out from modern genres is its humbleness. "We sing in a theatre without microphones," he says, adding that there are no gimmicks and no tricks. "That's the beauty of belle canto [Italian for beautiful singing]." 

The nature of opera itself also has close ties with the concept of time. Over time, it is natural for an individual's voice to change. "When we get older, the muscles get looser so it's harder to close the vocal chords," he says. "For high notes, it gets harder and harder."

Mok has not let this stop him. Practice makes perfect, says the singer, who works hard to maintain his technique and skill set. "Good technique can prolong [your] singing life. I'm in my 50's and I still sing actively," he says. "Don't believe me? Come see our shows." JL

Master Geographic

"If I don't wear a watch, I feel lost. I like automatic [watches] - the old fashion-styled watch. I'm wearing a Jaeger- LeCoultre which I like very much. This one is not [very] flashy. It's a very basic simple watch."