Long-awaited Chinese opera venue to open at Hong Kong’s West Kowloon cultural hub on January 20 with star-studded performance
Trial run for Xiqu Centre – one of West Kowloon Cultural District’s landmark buildings – will begin with soft opening on December 30
A long-awaited Chinese opera theatre at the city’s West Kowloon arts hub will officially open on January 20 next year with a star-studded performance of a classic piece under the direction of legendary diva Dr Pak Suet-sin.
A soft opening of the Xiqu Centre – one of the cultural district’s landmark buildings – will be launched on December 30 with two shows by Barwo, or the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong, and Chinese opera rituals to “break in” the theatre, followed by a week of free programmes for the public to take part in the venue’s trial run.
Announcing the opening of the centre, which will be used for Cantonese opera and other genres, West Kowloon Cultural District Authority chairman Henry Tang Ying-yen said on Monday the building’s striking design, created by Revery Architecture Inc (formerly Bing Thom Architects) and Ronald Lu and Partners, was inspired by traditional Chinese lanterns and the main entrance was shaped to resemble parted stage curtains.
A wealth of Cantonese opera stars, including Pak, Connie Chan Po-chu and Mui Suet-see, attended Monday’s event.
“The opening of the Xiqu Centre will be conducive to developing a locally rooted xiqu network that has a regional impact with an important role in international arts development,” Tang said.
However, he admitted that the development of Chinese opera faced daunting succession challenges since at present just over 40 pieces out of the entire canon of 367 are commonly performed.
“My goal with the Xiqu Centre is for us to produce these 367 pieces all over again,” he said.
Authority chief executive Duncan Pescod said the opening of the centre, the first performing arts venue in the cultural district, was a “defining moment”.
“This will be a benchmark for venues designed to showcase traditional theatre,” he said.
The official opening of the centre will be marked by a performance of The Reincarnation of Red Plum, starring Chan and Mui under the artistic direction of Pak.
A total of 5,000 tickets for nine shows, costing from HK$200 to more than HK$1,000, will be offered through a public ballot via the www.westkowloon.hk website. The registration period for the ballot starts at 10am on Tuesday and runs until 9pm on October 28.
People can also register for the ballot at the Xiqu Centre ticket office.
Pescod said that, to ensure fair distribution of the tickets and save people from having to queue, those who registered during the period would enter the ballot with a maximum of four tickets for each person selected.
“We want to try to ensure that those who want the tickets will have a fair chance to do that because it is going to be very popular. We want to make sure the tickets are available to end users. We don’t want to encourage people to become scalpers,” he said.
For the centre’s soft launch, Barwo will stage two shows – Birthday of the God of Venus and Prime Minister of Six States – on December 30.
The centre’s eight-storey building has a total area of 28,164 square metres and houses a Grand Theatre, accommodating 1,073 seats, a Tea House Theatre, with a capacity of up to 200 seats, eight professional studios and a seminar hall, all designed for xiqu-related functions and activities.
A unique feature of the venue is the Grand Theatre at the top of the building, which allows for a large open atrium below with space for exhibitions, stalls, and xiqu demonstrations and workshops.
Cantonese opera has been added to the Unesco representative list of intangible cultural heritage.