Hong Kong opens the Xiqu Centre, touted as a top-class performing arts centre, in the West Kowloon Cultural District in January 2019.
Our visit to this landmark arts centre – located at the junction of Canton Road and Austin Road West in Tsim Sha Tsui – allows us a peek into the spirited efforts put in to promoting and developing Chinese opera in the Cantonese dialect and other genres of ‘xiqu’ (Chinese traditional theatre).
Ushers led us into a dim-lit Tea House Theatre for 200 people and we sat on Chinese chairs with arm-rest flanked by a side table on which was laid a cup and a box of ‘dim sum’. We watched a 90-minute Cantonese Opera Classic The Reincarnation of Red Plum that tells an enduring love story of scholar Pei Yu and the ghost of beautiful concubine Li Huiniang; a play set in the Southern Song dynasty.
We followed the sad story with English subtitles while sipping Chinese tea ‘pur er’ and eating ‘dim sum’. I like how the opera show is put together the script and haunting movements and the unusual but creative way it is presented promises to revive interest in traditional Chinese opera. It is heartening to see the ensemble that accompanied the opera show comprises a group of young talented musicians playing Chinese musical instruments like the erhu, pipa, and guzheng.
Xiqu Centre’s design is inspired by traditional Chinese lanterns to reflect the evolving nature of the art form. Its main entrance, shaped to resemble parted stage curtains, leads into a lively atrium with a raised podium and space for a variety of performances and exhibitions.
This eight-storey building has a grand Theatre with a 1,073-seat capacity, the Tea House Theatre, seminar hall, eight studios, and a variety of retail, food and beverage and leisure facilities.
In the words of Dr Peter Lam, the chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, Hong Kong offers a mix of new and old culture, and xiqu, which is on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, plays a pivotal role in heightening Hong Kong’s destination charm.
“The opening of the Xiqu Centre will also mark a big leap forward in establishing Hong Kong as an international arts and cultural hub, expanding the city’s appeal to a wider audience,” he said.
Along with xiqu performances and the screening of iconic xiqu films, visitors can join a 60-minute guided tour to explore the facilities, learn about the architectural and design features, and discover fascinating facts about the rich history of the art of xiqu.