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West Kowloon Cultural District

Chinese opera fans turn out for events ahead of opening of Hong Kong’s Xiqu Centre

  • Many left disappointed after limited tickets for events snapped up
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 December, 2018, 8:50pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 December, 2018, 8:50pm

A week of free performances and events ahead of the January opening of Hong Kong’s landmark Chinese opera theatre began on Sunday, drawing throngs of enthusiasts hoping to nab limited tickets for the first shows.

The Xiqu Centre, the first performing arts centre to be completed at the West Kowloon Cultural District, will officially open on January 20.

Those lucky enough to get tickets on the first day of an eight-day pre-opening gala enjoyed two inaugural “stage-dedication performances” of Cantonese classics Birthday of the God of Venus and Prime Minister of Six States.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was the officiating guest.

Dozens of diehard opera lovers, however, had to leave disappointed, despite waiting hours for tickets.

“The arrangement was bad. They said there would be a limited quota but they did not even specify what that quota was,” said one disgruntled would-be spectator, surnamed Mak, who showed up at 7am, three hours before the ticket counters opened, but was unsuccessful.

“Also, do they expect all old people to know how to use the internet?”

Earlier this month, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority said more than 5,000 tickets had been distributed for pre-opening shows between December 30 and January 6.

Thousands of tickets had been reserved in advance, but people who missed out were given a chance to get them in “limited numbers” either online or at the door.

Opera enthusiast Amy Lee was one of the fortunate and perseverant few who bagged tickets. She arrived at the theatre entrance in Austin at 5am and waited in the cold until 10.30am for tickets.

“Nothing was available online so I arrived at the theatre just before 5.30am and was right behind the first person who showed up,” she said. “I was very happy.”

More than 30 groups lined up for Chinese opera shows in cultural district

She said the confusing ticket arrangement was “understandable” as many first-day tickets would probably have been reserved for people in the arts sector.

A pre-opening ceremony attended by representatives of the cultural district and the Chinese Artists Association was held in the building’s 1,000-seat grand theatre, complete with lion dances, incense burning and the carving of roast pigs.

In a speech, Liza Wang Ming-chun, chair of the association, reflected on the challenges of realising the city’s first facility designated for the development of Chinese opera.

“I hope the centre’s positioning [as a platform for Chinese opera] will be clear. It is imperative that they do not add any other elements,” she said.

However, she alluded to possible challenges faced by opera troupes wanting to perform there, noting the rents were high and conditions were stringent. She urged them to look at their budget carefully.

The theatre, which can hold more than 1,000 people, charges at least HK$22,000 in daily rent for performances.

Henry Tang Ying-yen, chairman of the authority, said he hoped all 367 types of opera from across China would be performed at the centre.