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
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
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.