The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and guest performers
The same orchestra in their more regular and formal attire
This past Friday evening, I attended the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra's season opener: a wonderful concert, featuring bravura performances of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 and Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, which was notable for some not only for superstar pianist Yuja Wang's piano playing but also the dress she chose to wear when doing so.
There are some who found the turquoise number with a deep "V" both in front and back distracting. For my part, once I got to realizing that what I initially thought was bare front (and back) was covered by skin-colored cloth -- and consequently ceased to wonder if an eye-catching wardrobe malfunction might occur mid performance! -- I actually wasn't too fazed by the pianist's choice of costume for the evening and could pretty much fully concentrate on her incredible performance: one with the requisite awesome power when that was called for but also sublime moments when she coaxed beautiful music out of her instrument when looking like she was merely tickling its keys.
While we're on the subject of concert attire: I attended this particular event -- whose audience also included the likes of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, Opera Hong Kong artistic director Warren Mok and Hong Kong Arts Festival executive director Tisa Ho -- wearing my summer top of choice: a round-necked t-shirt. And khaki trousers and a pair of moccasins completed my comfortable get-up.
Although my clothing didn't attract any stares or even second glances from the people present, this casual attire would make me unable to attend gala performances by the lesser Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. And for the record: the dress code for that Kuala Lumpur-based orchestra's concerts was even more restrictive when I lived in that Malaysian city some years ago; with the result that I decided to boycott all of its concerts, reasoning that it just didn't make sense for me to have to dress up (in a skirt to boot!) for them when I could -- and did -- attend performances by much more renowned and respected outfits like the Philadelphia Orchestra (when I lived in the City of Brotherly Shove) and London Symphony Orchestra (back when I lived in Britain) in casual clothing!
Shortly after I moved to Hong Kong (more than 10 years ago now!), I had the good fortune to interview Hong Kong Sinfonietta conductor cum music director Yip Wing Sie, during which she told me that she didn't care what her orchestra's audience wore to concerts so long as they paid attention to, and appreciated, the music it played. And in a conversation with cellist Trey Lee, the musician took things one step further by advising that audience members should close their eyes for at least part of the concert to better focus on the sounds generated by the musicians. (And yes, I remember his words and do close my eyes for at least a few seconds at every concert I've attended since!)
All in all, I think I figured that Hong Kong was my kind of classical music town when I attended my first Hong Kong Sinfonietta concert way back when and found not only Hong Kong Sinfonietta t-shirts being sold near the entrance to the concert hall but also quite a number of people in the audience wearing them. In addition, at the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra's brilliantly entertaining Ping Pong Diplomacy concert a few months ago, every single member of the orchestra was attired in t-shirt and jeans -- and still managed to deliver outstanding performances! Take that, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and your dress code! ;b