Alumni Kaleidoscope: Lucy Choi - MBA
Having grown up with her entrepreneur parents always encouraging her to work for herself and not for others, Lucy enjoys new challenges and the joy of making something happen, and makes a point of changing sectors and taking on something entirely new every few years. Her latest brainchild is More than Musical, a registered non-profit whose vision is to make opera more accessible and approachable for Hong Kong's broad and diverse communities.
Lucy's passion for music and musical instruments began in her childhood, when she started playing piano at the age of 10. In university, she went on to pursue a bachelor degree in Music, but during her first year, she unfortunately had to stop playing piano completely due to severe pain in her arm. Not letting this discourage her from her passion for music, however, Lucy began taking singing lessons which in turn ignited her love for opera. By the time she graduated, she was officially an opera fanatic, even moving to London to continue her education (where, incidentally, she could always be found enjoying the performances in the Royal Opera House but she was shocked by the age of opera goers and she felt like she was the only young Asian girl sitting in the audience).
After returning to Hong Kong, Lucy worked with Opera Hong Kong, where she met her More than Musical co-founder Rumiko. "Our goal is to break down any barriers between the opera and the audience," explains Lucy. "We condense the content into shorter, easier to digest pieces; choose smaller and trendy venues where the audience can get up close and personal with performers; and recruit young and vibrant talents that the audience can better relate to." The end result is an annual movie-length opera production that focuses on critical scenes, making the opera easier for newcomers to understand and digest. Performances also take place in intimate venues with an open bar so the audience can meet the performers and other opera connoisseurs in a fun and relaxed environment. Another event that More Than Musical does every quarter is the "opera gig", where they put young opera singers into bars and clubs in Hong Kong. This refreshing take on opera, coupled with happy hours and a relaxing atmosphere, have been a great hit with the younger generation.
In their quest to make opera accessible to all, Lucy and Rumiko faced numerous challenges, including the need to do everything themselves, from liaising with the artistic director and the venue, to applying for the necessary licenses from the government, to drafting and sending out eDMs for an upcoming performance, selling tickets and doing press interviews. Despite the difficulties involved, Lucy dived in headfirst with her usual can-do spirit. "When we were printing our program for our first opera production La Traviata, the editor asked what Rumiko and my roles were," says Lucy laughingly. "I had no idea as we were basically involved in everything and we are the founders of More Than Musical. Eventually the editor suggested "producers", so I guess that's what we are!"
Other major hurdles include venue and funding. "Finding the right venue is always a challenge for the team," explains Lucy. "We want smaller and more intimate venues than the traditional concert halls and theatres, where the audience can clearly see each expression of the performers up close, and where we can install a bar to facilitate interaction between the audience and the performers after each show. Also, instead of having extravagant staging, we use projectors to project the background onto the walls of the venue. The entire production, from securing a suitable venue to arranging promotions, costs a large amount of money (HKD $2-3 million per opera production). But opera performances are not an area of priority for philanthropists. They often choose to give to other causes like building schools, supporting the underprivileged, etc." Fortunately, Lucy and Rumiko successfully pitched to Swire Properties for their first opera production, and were able to stage a production at SWIRE's multi-purpose space Artistree in June 2017. Since then, the team has successfully putting together two opera productions, seven opera gigs and other outreach events, which reached more than 2,500 audiences in Hong Kong within the past two years.
Know more about Lucy and More Than Musical from:
TED x Tin Hau Women: Bridging Modern Society and Opera – November 2017