Youngster pursues passion for opera

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 April, 2012, 12:00am


At two, Chinese-Canadian Chloe Ng-Brossard Yee-tsing could hum the song her mother would sing in Chinese while washing the dishes.

It was the Cantonese opera classic Dai Nui Fa. A few weeks later, she was able to sing it.

Chloe, now 10, developed a passion for Cantonese opera and has already performed in Hong Kong and at the Shanghai World Expo.

She revealed her musical talents for the first time during a birthday party. She was only three, could not speak Chinese at all and yet performed Dai Nui Fa.

'When I first saw Cantonese opera,' Chloe said, 'I thought it was interesting and also weird.' The makeup, costumes and singing were foreign to her. 'But now I like everything about it.'

Born and raised near Vancouver - her mother is from Hong Kong and her father hails from Quebec - Chloe came to Hong Kong with her family in 2007. She now studies at the Yew Chung International School in Kowloon Tong and her schedule looks more like that of a university student than a Year 6 pupil.

On Monday, she has skating lessons, piano on Tuesday, Putonghua on Wednesday and school orchestra on Thursday. On Saturday she studies French and science with her dad, who is a biologist, then goes to the Academy of Performing Arts for her violin lessons. On Sunday, she devotes her time to Cantonese opera and Italian opera.

On Fridays, Chloe has nothing on her schedule. That is when she likes to turn on the television and watch science programmes or a movie with her parents.

'I sometimes ask her if she wants to quit one of her activities,' said Chloe's mother, Samantha Ng Sau-heung. 'But she always says, 'No, I don't want to quit.''

Makeup and costume for a Cantonese opera performance usually take about 90 minutes, but with Chloe it can take longer. 'Usually my mum does my makeup, so I sleep,' she said. 'When it is done, she lets me sleep around 30 minutes more, then she tells me to wake up, and I get dressed.'

In October 2010, the Hong Kong government invited the Long Fai troupe, where Chloe used to study Cantonese opera, to perform at the Shanghai World Expo. Chloe, then eight years old, performed for a few days in the Hong Kong pavilion. 'People would call her 'foreign doll',' her mother said.

Chloe is now fluent in Cantonese and English, but at first, language was an obstacle. She came up with a system where she would copy the song in Cantonese into the closest English sound she could think of.

Chloe looks at Cantonese opera as a hobby that she will give up at some point. She plans to become a biologist and go back to Canada.