Artistic impressions

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 July, 2012, 12:00am


Cantonese opera is having a bit of a revival - even though hardcore fans would tell us that the traditional performing art form has never gone away. But it is true that much has been happening in the Cantonese opera world since the beginning of this year when the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority organised a series of performances in its Bamboo Theatre, partly to publicise its planned Xiqu Centre, which is scheduled to open around 2015.

Then there was the on-off-on-again saga over at Sunbeam Theatre in North Point. In February the venue, home to the art form for 40 years, was dramatically saved from closure by Cantonese opera enthusiast and fung shui master Li Kui-ming.

On Tuesday, the Yau Ma Tei Theatre - which was a cinema for adult movies in its last incarnation - will reopen, this time dedicated to the promotion of Chinese opera. Partnering with the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong, the government-run theatre will showcase both new and classical works in the genre, starting with Prime Minister of Six States and Birthday of the God of Venus, on Tuesday evening. This traditional piece will be performed by Law Kar-ying, Yuen Siu-fai, Sun Kim-long and Wan Yuk-yu.

Yuen will also be appearing in a new work later this month - Justice Bao, which he also penned and directed - alongside other veterans such as Yau Sing-po and Nam Fung as part of the ongoing Chinese Opera Festival.

All this is great news for Cantonese opera fans in the city and around the region as there has been much talk about the art form, recognised by Unesco as an Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2009, not being able to sustain itself for lack of new works, talent and audience.

But thanks to organisations such as the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong, the government, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and now the West Kowloon Cultural District the outlook for the art form has never looked better. I have also noticed that, especially over the past year or so, there have been more productions by younger troupes staging and performing in works by contemporary librettists.

I'm not a big Cantonese opera fan - I much prefer the more melodic and elegant kunqu - but every time I hear Cantonese opera music playing on the radio (often in shops in the older neighbourhoods), it brings back childhood memories of listening to that at my grandparents' home. It truly is part of this city's cultural heritage that's worth preserving.