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7 places to discover Cantonese Opera in Hong Kong

7 places to discover Cantonese Opera in Hong Kong

Before Cantopop took over their teenage years, many Hongkongers would remember Cantonese opera being the background music to their childhood, seeing as how popular it was among the older generation. Here are some of the best venues and experiences to get a taste of this classic art form and share in the collective memory.


Xiqu Centre

Xiqu Centre

A purpose-built venue for Cantonese opera as well as other forms of Chinese traditional theatre (known as xiqu in Mandarin), Xiqu Centre Get me there {{title}} Address {{address}} Website {{website}} More info in West Kowloon Cultural District is the ideal place to visit for an introduction to the genre. Immerse yourself in world-class performances at the Grand Theatre, or sit back and enjoy tea and dim sum at the cosy Tea House Theatre as you take in 90-minute excerpts of all-time favourites performed by the resident troupe. Featuring expert narration, the intimate venue is designed to recreate the down-to-earth experience enjoyed by locals in the 20th century. 

 

Should you be inspired to deepen your knowledge, be sure to check out the latest screenings, workshops, talks and exhibitions at the centre.

Yau Ma Tei Theatre

Yau Ma Tei Theatre

For a lesson in history and architecture along with your dose of opera, pop by Yau Ma Tei Theatre Get me there {{title}} Address {{address}} Website {{website}} More info . Built in 1930, the theatre is the only surviving pre-war cinema building in the urban area of Hong Kong. It closed down in 1998 and reopened in 2012 as a venue dedicated to Cantonese opera. The building’s restoration was faithful to the original, making it an ideal venue to enjoy the richness and colour of traditional Chinese theatre. Inside, the audience sits under the original wooden roof beams. 

 

Check out the regular performances by up-and-coming opera performers here. Some of the shows come with English subtitles, so non-Cantonese speakers can also follow the story.

Ko Shan Theatre New Wing

Ko Shan Theatre New Wing

One of the key elements of Cantonese opera is the exciting action: from weapon-throwing to acrobatics, the martial art-inspired moves captivate audiences of all ages. Expanded in 2014, Ko Shan Theatre New Wing makes for an ideal stage for showcasing the dramatic movements, with high ceilings even in the rehearsal rooms.  Following the concept of ‘a theatre in a park, a park in a theatre’, the design, including floor-to-ceiling glass windows, allows the interior features to intertwine spectacularly with the outdoor scenery. The venue also takes into account the needs of the elderly, who are often fans of the genre, by offering greater accessibility such as ample room between seat rows and ramps into the theatres. 

 

Even if you don’t have time for a performance, you can drop by the Cantonese Opera Education and Information Centre, equipped with the latest technology for visitors looking for a hands-on experience of Cantonese opera. Don’t miss the specialised store where you can pick up Cantonese opera-themed souvenirs.

Sunbeam Theatre

Sunbeam Theatre

For the ultimate local Cantonese opera experience, look no further: Sunbeam Theatre Get me there {{title}} Address {{address}} Website {{website}} More info is one of the few places in Hong Kong where you can stroll in, grab a snack from the tuck shop at the entrance, and pop into one of the performances held almost every evening. Conveniently situated next to MTR North Point Station, it has been a landmark as well as an opera fan favourite since it opened its doors in 1972. Although it had been rumoured to close a few times throughout recent decades, it still draws a regular crowd and is spoken of fondly by Cantonese performers.

Hong Kong Heritage Museum

Hong Kong Heritage Museum

Head to The Hong Kong Heritage Museum Get me there {{title}} Address {{address}} Website {{website}} More info for an up-close look at the meticulously designed and exquisitely made costumes and props such as embroidered dresses and gemstone jewellery that make Cantonese opera so visually stimulating. The permanent exhibition at Cantonese Opera Heritage Hall features items used by celebrated opera stars as well as multimedia elements, and even a reconstruction of a bamboo stage for a comprehensive taste of the genre. With artefacts spanning the entire 20th century, visitors can get a sense of the art’s development in Hong Kong in relation to the city’s socioeconomic changes.

Be sure to check out their programmes to time your visit with one of the free excerpt performances at weekends, with tickets available on a first come, first served basis. 

Tsing Yi fleeting theatre

Cantonese opera’s fleeting theatres

Aside from the above venues and events, Cantonese opera performances also make up a part of the city’s traditional celebrations. For instance, on the birthdays of Chun Kwun and Tin Hau in the third and fourth month of the lunar calendar respectively, locals celebrate by putting up a bamboo stage for opera performances in the neighbourhood of Tsing Yi. You will also find stalls selling local snacks and drinks, ranging from the nostalgic to the innovative. 

 

Have kids in tow? Visit the ‘Let’s Enjoy Cantonese Opera in Bamboo Theatre’ event held twice a year at various parts of the city. It aims to help children learn more about not only Cantonese opera but also the art of building the bamboo stages, and features performances with English subtitles for non-Cantonese speakers to take part in the fun.

Chinese Opera Festival

Chinese Opera Festival

Since 2010, Hongkongers have enjoyed an array of Chinese opera performances, including Cantonese opera, every summer during the Chinese Opera Festival at a collection of venues. With renowned stars of regional art forms such as Kunqu, Yue and Peking opera coming together to showcase their talent, visitors can sample a range of stellar performances while learning about the characteristics of genres from all across China. Experts are also invited to share their insights through lectures and talks. Along with the numerous screenings and exhibitions, as well as opportunities to meet the artists in person, the event offers a comprehensive and in-depth look at the country’s wealth of performing arts and its development. 

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The Hong Kong Tourism Board disclaims any liability as to the quality or fitness for purpose of third party products and services; and makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy, adequacy or reliability of any information contained herein.
Information in this guide is subject to changes without advance notice. Please contact the relevant product or service providers for enquiries.
 



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