Bou6: Hong Kong Issues through a Global Musical Lens
Israel Lai Rhapsody in Lingo
The chamber opera Bou6 premiered in Oxford in November 2019, at the height of Hong Kong’s protest movement. Inspired by the events leading up to the 1st July demonstration, the work distills core values from the movement and extends them beyond the city’s boundaries. While the contemporary art music industry predominantly exists as an outgrowth of the Western art music tradition, it has become a markedly global genre. The opera form, in particular, is firmly rooted in its European lineage. Bou6 itself aims to recontextualise Hong Kong’s events as an instance of social changes that resonate through history: the abstractness of the globalised and staged medium provides a platform for audiences of any culture to relate to the tragic characters. This multimedia talk asks several questions on the identity of Bou6 against Hong Kong’s place in today’s globalised environment: musically speaking, it bears the signature of a Hong Kong-based composer, but incorporates the spirit of its European crew and singers; the libretto is written by a Hong Kong poet, drawing on strongly local sentiments, but expressed through the English language. Beyond its content, the work, with its theme and creative process, reaffirms Hong Kong culture as a global culture that can be pondered upon through the lens of an art form that is also going through globalisation. Even the location of the performance, including the venue’s historical connotations, the cultural composition of the audience and the team, the historical ties between the UK and Hong Kong, raises questions about the significance of this performativity. Intertextual references in the music and visuals, amplified by a multicultural production team, link symbols in Hong Kong to this culturally independent plane of communication. Hence this talk is all about bridges: globalising a local message and localising a global art form.