Cantonese opera pop-up whets Hong Kong’s appetite for art
Starting 30 January, watch Cantonese opera, Chinese dance and music in an 800-seat temporary theatre made of recycled bamboo. (Courtesy of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority)
Hong Kong's planned arts hub, the West Kowloon Cultural District, is long-awaited, much delayed and over budget. Designed by star architect Norman Foster and located on the northern shore of Victoria Harbor near the International Commerce Centre, it will include major performance venues, a flagship museum for contemporary visual art, a sizable park, rehearsal and studio areas, as well as dedicated spaces for recitals and shows when finally complete.
In the meantime, though, the authority in charge of the area has organised several short-term events to whet the public's appetite for what's to come, with past events including a weekend of rock concerts in early December 2012 and an inaugural alternative cultural festival later that same month. Next up is perhaps the largest of them all, the West Kowloon Bamboo Theatre series, which opens on 30 January and runs till 16 February.
Initiated last year as a one-week affair, this year’s expanded three-week line up will include Cantonese opera, Chinese dance and contemporary music productions. Most impressive is the venue itself: an 800-seat temporary theatre, which, from the stage to the seating, will be constructed specifically for this series out of recycled bamboo and wood.
The theatre will sit at the intersection of Canton Road and Austin Road, which, fittingly, is also the future site of the Xiqu Centre, the West Kowloon Cultural District's first venue set to be completed, in 2016. It's a space designed exclusively for the promotion and continuation of Chinese opera, an art form that some believe is dying out but that many others want to revive.
"The Arts Development Council did a survey on the audience and the programme numbers of different art forms, and Chinese opera is one of the most popular arts in Hong Kong," said Louis Yu Kwok-lit, executive director, performing arts of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, who is planning the Bamboo Theatre festival. "From a very popular form of entertainment 50 years ago, it is now moving to another status, which is a piece of cultural heritage. People love it."
For newcomers to the genre, the Bamboo Theatre's schedule of events includes two productions on 12 and 16 February – smack in the middle of Chinese New Year celebrations for the Year of the Snake – of famous Cantonese opera highlights that are shorter than a typical show, which can sometimes last for more than three hours. Tickets for those performances are free, while entrance to other shows, such as a medley of Chinese a cappella groups on 14 February and local jazz fusion band SIU2 on 15 February can be bought via Hong Kong ticketing outlet Urbtix.
Hana R Alberts is the Hong Kong Localite for BBC Travel.