Asia Society Chamber Opera

Mila image

Mila is an original chamber opera developed by Asia Society Hong Kong Center, the organization's first-ever commission. Sung in Cantonese, English, and Tagalog, Mila sheds light on Hong Kong’s pressure-cooker social environment, examining the territory’s tensions in a 70-minute intersection of home life and the workplace. 

The San Francisco performance will be followed by a post-performance talk featuring comments from S. Alice Mong, Executive Director of Asia Society Hong Kong and Matthew Shilvock, General Director of San Francisco Opera.

Mila is a domestic helper from the Philippines hired by a family of three in Hong Kong. New to the city, Mila remains hardworking, patient and determined to please her employers despite their fussy and negative attitudes. As tension and distance arise between her employers (husband and wife), Mila becomes greatly concerned over her young master’s suicidal inclination, a situation that touches an old wound from Mila’s past. With the boy’s parents too self-occupied and focused on placing blame on others for their own affairs, Mila remains the only one aware that the boy needs protection from his unstable state.

Mila played in a four-night run at Asia Society Hong Kong Center to great acclaim in January 2018 and will have its North American premiere in December 2019 in conjunction with Asia Society New York and San Francisco. Performances will take place at the Angel Orensanz Center in New York City (December 7) and the Wilsey Center for Opera in San Francisco (December 12). These performances are presented by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council in collaboration with Asia Society.

Mila is the product of an international creative team including the American-born composer Eli Marshall, the prominent Hong Kong playwright Candace Chong Mui Ngam, award-winning theatre director Chu Hei Chan, and New York-based music director Neal Goren leading the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble. The performance will be sung in English, Cantonese and Tagalog by a cast of performers from Hong Kong, Manila and the United States.

The four-member cast includes Hong Kong-born soprano Amanda Li as Ma’am, New York-based bass-baritone Joseph Beutel as Sir and Hong Kong-born soprano Joanna Shao as both Boy and Rosa. The Manila-based soprano Stefanie Quintin performs the title role.


6:30 PM Registration & Reception

7:30 PM Opera Begins

8:40 PM Opera Concludes; Post-Show Q&A with Cast and Creative Team

9:00 PM End of Program

About the Creative Team

Eli Marshall, composer

Eli Marshall’s orchestral works have been performed in seven countries, with other works premiered at the German Parliament, South Korea’s Gak-won temple, and the Smithsonian Institution. He moved to China in 2003 on a Fulbright Fellowship and in 2011 relocated to Hong Kong, where he remains a permanent resident. After his Unde Pendet Aeternitas for voice and orchestra (written for tenor Warren Mok and the Macau Orchestra) won ASCAP’s 2007 Kaplan Prize, Marshall contributed to the score for Wong Kar-wai’s 2008 Ashes of Time—Redux featuring Yo-Yo Ma. His music for Ann Hui’s The Golden Era (2014), featuring the London Symphony Orchestra and vocalist and wind instrument virtuoso Wu Tong, was nominated for Best Original Film Score at the 35th Hong Kong Film Awards. A recipient of the Douglas Moore Fellowship for American Opera, he was the founding artistic director of the Beijing New Music Ensemble and currently holds a visiting faculty position at Cornell University.

Candace Chong Mui Ngam, story and libretto

One of the South China Morning Post’s 25 most inspirational and influential women in Hong Kong, playwright Candace Chong is a recipient of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council’s Best Artist Award for Drama in 2010 and a five-time winner of the Hong Kong Drama Awards for Best Script. Following a 12-month stay in the U.S. facilitated by an Asian Cultural Council grant, she became the translator for David Henry Hwang’s 2011 bilingual Broadway comedy Chinglish and was featured in the 2013 Contemporary Chinese Playwriting Series co-presented New York’s Signature Theatre and Lark Play Development Center. Her 2012 play Wild Boar had its English-language premiere in Chicago in 2017. Chong’s 2005 play French Kiss was filmed as Heaven in the Dark (2016) starring Jacky Cheung, and she adapted her highly acclaimed 2009 play Murder in San José for the screen as Fatal Visit (2018) starring Sammi Cheng. Her first opera libretto, for Huang Ruo’s Dr. Sun Yat-sen (2011), premiered in Hong Kong and later made its North American premiere in 2014 in a new production by Santa Fe Opera.

Chu Hei Chan, stage director

Chu Hei Chan graduated from the School of Drama, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in 1991 with a major in Acting and was awarded the Advanced Diploma (Honours) in Performing Arts. After graduation, he furthered his theater studies at London’s Ecole Philippe Gaulier. In 1993, he co-founded Theatre Ensemble and has held various roles including director, playwright and actor. He founded Horizon Theatre Studio in 2004, Theatre Horizon in 2006, and the Hong Kong People's Fringe Association in 2012. Currently Artistic Director of Theatre Horizon and Chief Coordinator of Hong Kong People's Fringe Festival, he has performed in major theatrical productions for various professional theater troupes in Hong Kong. He has won Best Actor and Best Director (twice) at the Hong Kong Drama Awards, as well as a two-time Best Director for the Hong Kong Theatre Libre. Recent works as director include The Black and the Blue of a Man (North-East Village Edition), Century-Old Dreams of a Fishing Harbour TrilogyThe Garden Party (North-East Village Version), The Blue Bird, The Lu-Tings, Skylight and The Massage King.

Neal Goren, music director

Neal Goren is the founding Artistic Director and Conductor of New York’s Catapult Opera, which opens its inaugural season in 2020–21. Previously, he was the founder of Gotham Chamber Opera, where he conducted all of the company’s 18 productions, including critically acclaimed runs of Haydn’s Il Mondo della Luna, Mozart's Il sogno di Scipione, Milhaud's Les Malheurs d’Orphée, and Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (with period instruments). Guest conducting appearances include Respighi’s La bella dormente nel bosco for the Lincoln Center Festival and Spoleto Festival USA, Mozart’s Magic Flute at New York City Opera, and Britten’s Turn of the Screw for France’s Opera de Nantes and Angers. As a recital accompanist, he has collaborated with many of opera’s leading vocalists, including Leontyne Price (as her exclusive musical collaborator), Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, Thomas Hampson, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Hermann Prey. He has been a member of the faculty of the graduate opera department of New York’s Mannes College of Music since 1992, the Accademia Rossiana in Pesaro, Italy and the Harlem School of the Arts.

Hong Kong New Music Ensemble

Founded in 2008, the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble (HKNME) has been dubbed by CNN as “one of Hong Kong’s most progressive groups of musicians.” Widely praised for its innovative programming, the Ensemble’s productions include concerts, educational outreach events, and interdisciplinary collaborations and research projects with artists from different artistic fields. With a core of 15 members who perform in a variety of combinations and setting, the HKNME has performed both contemporary masterworks repertoire and numerous premières by composers from Hong Kong and overseas, including many commissioned by the HKNME itself. In addition to collaborating with such organizations such as Zuni Icosahedron, the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, and Guangdong Modern Dance Company, the HKNME has also organized events in partnership with the Hong Kong Arts Centre, West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, and the Goethe Institute Hongkong. A regular collaborator with music departments across all Hong Kong educational institutions, the HKNME was in residence at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts from 2013 to 2015.

Support Mila here.

Presented by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council in Collaboration with Asia Society

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Stephen Riady Foundation sponsor
Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office, San Francisco
United Airlines


Event Details

Thu 12 Dec 2019
6:30 - 9 p.m.

Taube Atrium Theater / The Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera

401 Van Ness Avenue San Francisco, CA 94102

Buy Tickets
Members $50, Non-members $100
Add to Calendar 20191213T023000 20191213T050000 UTC Asia Society: Mila Taube Atrium Theater / The Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera 401 Van Ness Avenue San Francisco, CA 94102