The Changing Face of Cantonese Opera


Watch the complete program (1 hr., 34 min.)

HONG KONG, February 11, 2012 — Hong Kong is a premier international city, but is also home to deep-rooted local traditions like Yueju (Cantonese opera), which the city strives to keep alive and thriving. Many great supporters of Asia Society and Cantonese opera came to this fundraising concert, which was also the very first cultural performance held at the Miller Theatre (Former Magazine B).

Guests were invited to enjoy canapés and drinks at the courtyard, where they interacted and took pictures with several professional Cantonese opera performers dressed in full costume and makeup.

The performance opened with a documentary video telling Li Pui-yan's life story of pursuing an unconventional career in Cantonese opera after her graduation from Wellesley College in the United States. The documentary also looked back to the past, explaining the changing cultural landscape of Cantonese opera. Hong Kong Wah Yan College established a drama society in the 1950s to help fellow missionaries understand Cantonese opera. The society was started by Father Sheridan, the College's Senior English Master, who translated Cantonese opera librettos into English.

The society's mission was embodied in a performance by Dr. John C. C. Chan, Hong Kong Wah Yan alumni and former Chairman of The Hong Kong Jockey Club, and Lady Ivy Wu, Non-Executive Director of Hopewell Holdings Ltd. and Asia Society Hong Kong Center Advisory Council Member, who performed one of the classic pieces in Cantonese opera history, The Floral Princess: The Demise, in Cantonese and English.

The show continued with Li Pui-yan's story, followed by her live performance with her mentor, Cantonese opera maestro and iconic actor Law Kar-Ying. These two professional Cantonese opera performers sang The Lover's Mirrors: Flaming Love.

To give a better understanding of the history of Cantonese opera, all of the performers were then invited to join a panel discussion moderated by musicologist Joanna Lee in which they explained issues pertaining to Cantonese opera and answered questions from the audience.

While the live performance was held at the Robert Miller Theatre, over 250 residents from an old people’s home and more than 100 students watched the performance as it was broadcast live to The Hong Kong Jockey Club Hall. All present cheered and applauded when Li and Law walked into the hall for a meet-and-greet session.


Reported by Natalie Lai