Cantonese opera degrees on the way

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 May, 2011, 12:00am


Hong Kong will launch the world's first Cantonese Opera degree as part of its efforts to preserve the traditional art form.

The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts will start the four-year tertiary degree programme from 2013.

This follows international recognition of the form by Unesco, which granted Cantonese Opera the status of an intangible cultural heritage in 2009, says academy spokesman Herbert Huey.

Among its future students is Jeremy Huang Hangqin, 23, who has just received the academy's annual scholarship for his excellent performance in the art form.

'Cantonese opera is worthy of preservation. I believe I can contribute to introduce this amazing art form to more teenagers,' he said.

Deeply influenced by his father, an actor in Peking Opera, Huang left his home in Harbin at the age of 13 to study in Guangdong to pursue his dream of becoming a Cantonese Opera actor.

He was 17 when he came to the city to join the academy in 2007 as a diploma student.

One of his key roles is playing the lead character in the musical Monkey King inspired by the mythological legend Journey to the West.

To hone his acting skills, he sometimes observes the monkeys in Kam Shan Country Park - or Monkey Hill - home to many macaques. 'I can't let go of the role as I sometimes feel like I'm a monkey in daily life,' Huang said, as he scratched his chest in a particularly monkey-like way.

He said he most resembled the character's never-say-die attitude and never lost faith when working on his craft despite the art form's shrinking place in the world.

The academy will apply for funds to the Home Affairs Bureau. The planning of the syllabus is under way and student recruitment will begin in 2013. Huey said the academy had been offering two-year Cantonese Opera programmes at certificate, advanced certificate, diploma and advanced diploma levels.

Meanwhile, the academy offered more than 450 scholarships exceeding HK$11 million this year to full-time undergraduate academy students from six disciplines: dance, drama, film and television, music, theatre and entertainment arts and Chinese traditional theatre.

One of the recipients is Rachael Cheung Wai-ching, 19, who has been offered a full scholarship for a master's degree at Yale School of Music.

She started playing piano when she was four and joined the academy at the age of nine.

Another is 22-year-old stage management student Joanna Ko Wai-ching who is president of the students union and winner of the outstanding student award.