Kowloon arts hub to debut with Cantonese opera

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 December, 2011, 12:00am


Cantonese Opera married with contemporary visual arts and new media will be the theme of the first cultural event by the arts hub authority.

Michael Lynch, chief executive of the West Kowloon Cultural District, said the centre's first cultural programme, as a blend of traditional and contemporary art, 'gives some sense of what the future West Kowloon will look like'.

The performances and exhibitions will be held from January 20-23 in the 800-seat West Kowloon Bamboo Theatre, which will be erected on the site of the arts hub's Xiqu Centre, pending approval by the Town Planning Board.

The city's main venue for traditional opera, the Sunbeam Theatre in North Point, closes in February after 40 years. That has led to calls for the arts hub to get the Xiqu Centre up and running quickly. It is scheduled to be ready between 2015 and 2017.

Lynch said the performances would welcome the start of the Year of the Dragon on January 23 and pay tribute to local culture, with five operas starring some of Hong Kong's A-list artists - including Law Ka-ying, Yuen Siu-fai, Ng Chin-fung and Wan Fai-yin.

The five productions to be staged over the four days are Prime Minister of Six States, Contention for the Seal, The Lady Marshal and the Rash General, The Fair Couples Welcome the New Year, and The Sassy Princess and Her Blunt Husband.

Tickets will be HK$10 each, a low price that Lynch intends as a welcome gift to city residents, not an indicator of prices in the future. An English synopsis of each production will be provided at the site.

The authority declined to disclose the budget for the event, but it was estimated that artists' fees and the construction of the bamboo theatre and footpaths could cost more than HK$1 million.

Louis Yu Kwok-lit, the arts hub's executive director for performing arts, expects the event to draw more than 10,000 visitors. Yu said more cultural programmes would be staged next year. Design competitions for certain venues will also take place next year.

Cantonese opera artists were thrilled by the opportunity to perform in West Kowloon, said Liza Wang, chairwoman of the Chinese Artist Association of Hong Kong.

The art form was recognised in 2009 by Unesco as intangible cultural heritage.

'It's been a long time since Hong Kong has had a bamboo theatre erected in the city centre,' Wang said. 'And because Sunbeam Theatre will close soon, we hope the Xiqu Centre will be completed soon.'

Five contemporary artists who work or live in Hong Kong, including the 86-year-old Gaylord Chan, painter Chu Hing-wah and photographer Michael Wolf, will create visual art for an exhibition at the bamboo theatre. Composer and multimedia artist Samson Young and new media artist Henry Chu are working on an iPhone/ iPad app, drawing sound and visual references from Cantonese opera.