Hong Kong has all it takes to bring Cantonese opera to the next level, says the inaugural chief of the world's first and only Chinese Opera school.
Chinese opera has an uninterrupted heritage in the city and government support, giving Hong Kong an edge over the mainland where the art form suffered as a result of the turmoil following the communist takeover in 1949, including the Cultural Revolution, Frederic Mao Chun-fai said.
"This is the reason we have to safeguard Cantonese opera in Hong Kong," said Mao, who will start work in September as head of the school of Chinese opera at the Academy for Performing Arts.
"Because of the Cultural Revolution, there exists a gap on the mainland; both Peking opera and Kunqu experienced a quick revival, but not Cantonese opera," he said.
The school has 10 students of local, mainland and overseas backgrounds in its degree programme. About 30 more are enrolled on diploma courses.
A performing-arts veteran, Mao gave up the deputy chairmanship of the academy's council to take up the new position.
He said the degree programme was aimed at anyone interested in the art form recognised by UN cultural body Unesco in 2009 as intangible cultural heritage. "You don't have to be trained in singing Cantonese opera from childhood to qualify."
The academy director, Professor Adrian Walter, described the Cantonese opera degree course as the "jewel in the crown" of the academy. He said the school eventually aimed to set up a centre for research into the opera's past and future development.