Hong Kong Cantonese Opera in Imagined Modernity

Activity: Talks or PresentationsPublic Lecture


The last hundred years of history of Cantonese opera in Hong Kong has been a story of syncretism in its interaction with modern social reality (that by definition, like it or not, for better or worse, means “already westernized”): from adapting European musical instruments, modern stories, and Euro-American movies in the early decades of the twentieth century, to European operatic aria style and digital stage technology a hundred years after. It is not that Cantonese opera was ahead of the other regional Chinese operatic forms in responding to the West, or pioneered in many “new” attempts. It is just that anything that goes, Cantonese opera practitioners take, for survival. In this talk we shall interrogate how Hong Kong Cantonese opera, in negotiating the ineluctable encroachment of (Euro)modernity that threatens traditional intangible cultural heritage of all kinds, has imagined its “modernity” in its creativity and production as a tactic of sustainability in modern society. We shall discuss musical and theatrical aspects of Hong Kong Cantonese opera’s “modern imaginations” in practice, and examine the efficacy of the many imaginative practices that would be effective, empowering, incomplete, futile, or failed.
Period30 Apr 2021
Event titlePerformance and Cultural Studies Lecture Series 2021
Event typePublic Lecture
OrganiserDepartment of Cultural Studies