Cantonese opera master Lam Ka-sing dies in Hong Kong, aged 82

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 August, 2015, 3:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 August, 2015, 11:36pm

Cantonese opera master Lam Ka-sing (1933-2015)

Lam Ka-sing, a household name in Cantonese opera for more than seven decades in film and on stage, died on Tuesday, aged 82.

Lam, who had Parkinson’s disease, passed out after eating dinner at his Waterloo Road home and later died at Kwong Wah Hospital.

Born as Lam Man-shun in Hong Kong in 1933, Lam and his family fled to Guangzhou during the Japanese occupation of the city during the second world war. There he and his sister were attracted to Cantonese opera and studied under veteran actor Tang Chiu Lan-fong, who taught the young Lam singing and acting, including many old plays.

After the war, Lam returned to Hong Kong and studied under Cantonese opera guru Sit Kok-sin, who took in the then 15-year-old as his last student.

Lam began a 20-year film career with an appearance in 1947’s Prostituting to Raise the Orphan. His last big screen appearance in Justice Bao, released in 1967, was his 302nd film.

Lam also founded his own operatic troupes and staged live performances from the 1960s onwards. His last show was a tour of Hong Kong and North America in 1993. He and his family migrated to Canada thereafter.

After Lam’s wife Hong Dou-zi died in 2009, he returned to Hong Kong and performed at the Hong Kong Coliseum as part of National Day celebrations. He continued to advise and nurture young Cantonese opera performers and was conferred an honorary doctorate by the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in 2010. In 2012, he received a Silver Bauhinia Star for his contribution to the art of Cantonese opera.

“He had agreed to officiate at the opening of our new season in October with his most famous opus, Sound of War in Roaring Thunder and Boisterous Drums,” said Fredric Mao Chun-fai, head of the school of Chinese opera at the academy.

“He spoke with enthusiasm and excitement regardless of his Parkinson’s when we dined together late [last month]. His passing is truly a great loss to us. He will be dearly missed.”

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor expressed deep sorrow over Lam’s death.

“Dr Lam, with his superb attainments in Cantonese opera, was a great master of our age. He had dedicated all his life to Cantonese opera and had made great contributions in enhancing the conservation and development of the genre. His passing is a great loss to us. However, his spirit will last,” she said.

Lam is survived by a son, who lives in Canada.