Saturday, January 30, 2010

HKMOA, The Fringe Club and surrounding area/events, Eno, Opera

-Hong Kong Museum of Art-

The HKMOA has fairly impressive collections of classical Chinese art (the stuff w/the landscapes and the characters - I believe I saw the phrase 'literati art' applied to this) and historic Chinese ceramics. Beyond that, it now has a special exhibit of art from the 1700's-1800's from the city of Guangzhou (i.e. more old Chinese art) and contemporary work in the style of old Chinese art.

If one is really, really, into old Chinese art, then the HKMOA is for you. I however, was significantly disappointed. I don't believe I was the only one as I overheard one youngster within a family of tourists rhetorically ask, 'That's it!?' It's funny (both kinds of funny) how a single experience can so color an entire vacation, an entire city, an entire continent.

-The Fringe Club and surrounding area/events-

In the area known as Central, just adjacent to what feels like the financial center of the city is the artsy district. this is comprised of the area called Soho (every worthy city has one I suppose), Hollywood Rd. (nothing like Sunset Blvd.) and the vicinity east of that.

Still grumpy from the let down at the MOA the day before, I ventured into these quarters. After dismissively walking by many small galleries I went into the institution known as the Fringe Club, was unimpressed with some photography displayed there, and made note of the events calender for their theater. I continued my aimless, grumpified, journey around this district until I found that which was to turn my day around; the Flying Pan.

Those who know me well, know that I find indescribable joy and comfort in the western style breakfast diner. Those who know Asia, especially Korea, know that these are foreign to the East. This diner is even better if it happens to be counter-culturey and therefore serves acceptable coffee. And so it is with the Flying Pan, saviour of Hong Kong, saviour of Asia.

After my breakfast at 2:00pm, and in a much better mood, I went back to the Fringe Club to buy a ticket to their currently running play, Montovaldo as performed my the Theatre du Pif (sp?).

This small production, based on a series of short stories, depending on your perspective, could be profound, absurd, or both. I chose to turn off the inner critic and enjoy the show, which I did. After the show I was able to share a drink with the three actors, one of whom is from Korea and will be performing in Korea this summer.

-Eno: Music for Airports-

When on my way to the aforementioned play, I saw a flyer for a multimedia production emblazoned with Eno's name. I hurriedly booked this for the following night.

This ended up being a wonderful series of Audio/Visual pieces arranged/composed by several young performers, video artists, animators, etc. It included some live instrumentation; piano, clarinet, violin, viola; film/video/animation and other bells and whistles. The technological interaction going on with the live performance was pretty trippy and way beyond my grasp particularly in one piece.

There was a Q&A session after the show. My question to them, after thanking them for doing the work, was how much of this actually had to do with Brian Eno. Only one of them fielded the question with an answer with something about Eno not being a controlling composer and that he has some tape loops with the name, Music for Airports. (Note: That album features tempo phasing, there was no phasing going on in their performance the other night.)

My interpretation: Put Eno's name on it and they will come. And so they did, so I did.

-Cantonese Opera-

This performance was at the North District Town Hall Auditorium. That is exactly the kind of venue one would expect from that name. In addition, it was out in the burbs, or should I say the burb as Hong Kong really only has room for one. I was the only non-Hong Konger and almost certainly the only person in the audience that was not at least in their 60's. It was awesome. I was asked by an usher, 'How is it, that you are here?'

It was four hours long, no exaggeration, four hours on the dot. Someone did give me a printed synopsis in English, it was a comedy and there was a lot of funny personal interaction going on. The name in case you are : A Passionate Suitor.

Oh yes, one important fact: I believe most of the actors, if not all, were in gender reversal. The men playing women and vice versa. I knew that at one time the women's parts were played by men but I didn't realize that the opposite was also true.

The pit orchestra was small, 7-8 people: percussion (drums and what we called in college 'China cymbals'), bamboo flutes, reeded winds, and one cello to fill out the low end. The music all sounded traditional, pentatonic, in unison, call and response, or some heterophonic variation of those. It did include a lot of talking (without music), much of which was punctuated with percussion, like a Vegas comedy act.

I got some good photos, perhaps illegally, of the actors applying their make-up!

Today is my final full day in Hong Kong, I believe I may do one of the few touristy things of my trip for my final experience, Victoria's Peak. But first there's meeting, and before that I must start my morning with coffee and some Hong Kong breakfast.

I will likely make my next entry from cold, stark, Korea and will include links to photos!


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