After numerous efforts, Cantonese opera has gained recognition from various sectors of society. It is acknowledged as a local art form worth preserving and inheriting, as well as a carrier of traditional Chinese culture and literature. In 2009, it was even included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. As a professional organization for Cantonese Opera practitioners, we are duty-bound to persevere and preserve the integrity of this culturally significant form of art.
Since 2012, the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong (the Association) has been supported by the Cantonese Opera Development Fund and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, to become a venue partner of Yau Ma Tei Theatre, where the Cantonese Opera Young Talent Showcase was launched. Thus far, 170 young talents have participated in the program and staged more than 180 different plays. Each year, it continues to attract new blood, and this year is no exception. There are young male role actors like Chu Siu-yat, Chen Jingru, and Deng Haipeng, as well as returning actresses like Vivian Yuen who have participated in our emerging artist program before. In addition, there are rising stars like Lau Yu-feng, Ng Lap-hei, Ng Kwok-wa, Leung Fei-tung, Man Shuet-kau, and others. Furthermore, more experienced performers like Wan Chi-hung, Liang Zhen-wen, Wong Ho-yau, Luo Yan, Sum Yung, Chung, Helli Yemina, Lam Pui-ka, and Ng Sze-wing are also part of the lineup. Alongside stage managers, musicians, stagehands, costume and set designers, and administrative staff, a large number of new talents have emerged, injecting vitality into the Cantonese opera industry.
In terms of infrastructure, the Yau Ma Tei Theatre is currently undergoing its second-phase construction. In the coming years, the newly built extension of the Ko Shan Theatre will serve as the base for the young talents of Cantonese opera. It is believed that when we return to the Yau Ma Tei Theatre for performances in two or three years, today's young talents will become the pillars of the performances in future.
In addition to training young talents and Cantonese opera practitioners, we are putting more effort into expanding our audience this year. The plan includes over 100 programs, with 68 main stage performances, allowing young talents to learn while performing. There are also 12 family-friendly and promotional events, including 2 Cantonese opera guided tours and workshops on Cantonese opera appreciation. Additionally, there will be 14 special performances for primary and secondary school students. This year, for the first time, we are collaborating with the Curriculum Development Institute of the Education Bureau to promote Cantonese opera culture to teachers and principals, integrating it into their teaching practices. In addition to the performances at City University of Hong Kong and Chinese University of Hong Kong in previous years, we will also work with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University to organize 3 promotional events for tertiary education, making a total of 102 programs. Once the pandemic subsides, our colleagues in the office are actively organizing outbound exchange activities for the program, aiming to provide emerging artists with more opportunities to broaden their horizons.
In addition to training Cantonese opera practitioners, cultivating the audience for Cantonese opera is also a key focus for us. Whether it is enhancing the appreciation skills of existing audience members or introducing Cantonese opera to the younger generation, audience development plays a crucial role in the preservation of Cantonese opera. Over the past decade, we have organized various audience outreach activities, including specialized performances for tourists, guided lectures, community promotional events, family-friendly performances, and creative activities. These programs strive to provide seasoned audience and first-timers alike insights into various aspects of Cantonese Opera like libretti, literature, body movement and martial art. We hope that audience members would not only be enthralled by the performances but would also gain a better understanding of Cantonese Opera.
Audience support is paramount to the future survival of Cantonese Opera, we sincerely hope that the public will back our vision of a bright future for Cantonese Opera and help us to turn it into a reality. As we enter the twelfth year of this program, we have faced challenges and obstacles, including the recent pandemic. However, we believe that with the support of the audience and the opportunities ahead, we can overcome these challenges and continue the legacy of Cantonese opera together.
Chairperson of The Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong
26 July 2023