A chamber opera on manufactured truth and reflected lies
‘There is no riot, only tyranny,’ said a black banner, erected in the heart of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong on 1 July 2019. Freedom fighters, predominantly in their early twenties and teenage years, had broken into the building to send the message that this legislative body had failed in its job to represent the people and the interests of their society. Like the movement it was inspired by, this opera is hardly just about the recent crisis—it is a dialogue with all tyrannical structures that exist in our societies. Each character on stage represents a group of people or a concept; the story aspires to be a mirror for all Tyranny, Riot, Condemners, and Departed in society to gaze upon, and only those who scrutinise their reflections with eyes open will be able to understand the intended meaning in its entirety. It re-contextualises ideas of government, anarchy, and truth – what truly happens in the opera is left to the imagination.
Bou6 is the Jyutping romanisation for a character that means violent, and is used in the slogan for the words for both riot and tyranny. 6 is also a reference to June, where the story is set.
For all who fight for HK, in spite of those who fight against.
Scene 1: One rainy night. The dream of a free world clashes with the reality of an authoritarian power structure. The dream is crushed by tyranny’s refusal to take it as anything more than a childish fantasy.
Scene 2: At a commemorative vigil. Some see a young soul’s passing as a lesson of silence and conformity, while others see it as a wake-up call. When delusion meets tyranny, riot is born.
Scene 3: Away from chaos. The truth about riot breaks into tyranny’s black-and-white world. When both sides wreak the same havoc, riot or not is but a matter of perspective, and perhaps a figment of the
Epilogue. With no riot to point fingers at, how is tyranny to be justified?
The Departed (Mezzo-soprano)
The Condemner (Baritone)
2 champagne glasses
Hard hat and stick (or other blunt surfaces)
Cor anglais in F
French horn in F
3 Timpani (with cymbal and bow)
1 Percussionist (triangle, vibraphone with bow)
String quintet (11111)
Composed Jul–Nov 2019, for the Oxford Contemporary Opera Festival
Libretto by Miuccia Chan
Performed 26–27 November 2019, in the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building
Tyranny: Zhao Ng
the Departed: Anna Townsend
Riot: Maxime Cugnon de Sévricourt
The Condemner: Oliver Black
Director: Toni Scharle
Assistant Director: Ellie Harrington
Musical Director: Lucia Švecová
Assistant Music Director: Israel Lai
Flute: Hannah Fuchs
Cor anglais: Abigail Peake
French horn: Ellen O’Brien
Timpani: Matt Venvell
Percussion: Chris Cottell
Piano: Toby Stanford
Violin: Ursula Aitchison and Nick Wong
Viola: Will Emery
Cello: Sebastian Riedl and Charles Austin