Cantonese Opera is an essential form of performing art in the Lingnan region. The art form took root in Hong Kong during the mid-twentieth century and soon began to flourish. However, the rise of film and television programme coupled with the apathetic attitude of the British Hong Kong Government towards Cantonese Opera have resulted in a drop in performances. After the Handover in 1997, with much effort, Cantonese Opera has been experiencing a revival. In 2009, Cantonese Opera was included in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In retrospect, the development of Cantonese Opera in Hong Kong has been met with a lot of hardships and challenges. It has finally been recognised for being an epitomic local art form and for being a quintessential vehicle for traditional Chinese values and literary achievements. As a professional organisation 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, 159 young talents have participated in the programme and have had the opportunity to be coached by revered industry titans such as Danny Li Chi-kei, Law Ka-ying, Sun Kim-long, Lung Koon-tin, Wan Fai-yin, Wong Chiu-kwan and Chan Ka-ming. The showcase has become a platform for seasoned artists to bequeath their invaluable knowledge and experience to burgeoning artists. In the past nine years, through this programme, the young talents have received a cumulative of over 4,600 hours of training and have performed in over 700 performances staged by the Association. These performances include scripts that had rarely been performed in Hong Kong and well-loved canonical classics. In addition to training up-and-coming onstage talent, we hire budding background actors, stage managers, musicians, costume artists and scenic artists in order to foster a new generation of professionals and to create a viable and sustainable scene for Cantonese Opera. I am delighted that, over the last nine years, these young people have grown and matured into full-fledged professionals adored by audiences and highly sought after by troupe directors.
Apart from training young professionals for the industry, cultivating audiences is also an integral part of our mission. We are fully cognizant of the fact that raising the levels of appreciation and introducing it to the younger generation are both vital for the survival of Cantonese Opera. In the last nine years, we have hosted over 200 audience-building activities which include tourist performances, appreciation talks, community performances, family-friendly shows and activities. These programmes 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. Furthermore, we have staged over 60 youth programmes, reaching over 12,000 primary, secondary and tertiary students, in the hopes of sowing the seeds of appreciation for Cantonese Opera performances as well as cultivating their interest in this traditional art form that is part of their heritage.
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 our programme approaches its tenth year, we are honored that two renowned veteran artists–Mr. Ng Chin-fung and Ms. Ng May-ying–are joining our team as artistic directors in 2021 in nurturing young artists. The road ahead presents ample opportunities but plenty of obstacles at the same time. May us move on and stride forward undauntedly.
Dr. Liza Wang Ming-chuen
Chairperson of The Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong
23 December 2020