Experimental Cantonese Opera “Farewell My Concubine” (New Adaptation) Production of the West Kowloon Cultural District Xiqu Centre
About the plot Echoing from all sides, the songs of Western Chu and the whinnying of war horses add to the heavy-hearted mood pointing to the downfall of Xiang Yu, the self-proclaimed “Overlord of Western Chu”. Under the moonlight, Xiang Yu’s lover, Consort Yu, bids a heartbreaking farewell to the hero before killing herself with his sword. By the banks of the Wu River, Xiang seems to hear Yu’s voice encouraging him to bide his time for a future comeback. At the same time, the spirits of soldiers slain in battle appear before him, urging him to fight till the end. Blending traditional Cantonese opera techniques with contemporary staging and lighting design, this groundbreaking production reinterprets the last moments of a hero caught between reality and fantasy before his final battle and ultimate defeat at Gaixia.
Creative ideas This new adaptation of the classic play Farewell My Concubine, merges traditional Cantonese opera principles with innovative new techniques, offering audiences a performance that illustrates the transformation and development of Cantonese opera. The play opens with a prelude that features the entry of the heroic male lead Xiang Yu and a demonstration of traditional Cantonese opera performing skills. Throughout the production, songs are sung in Central Plains Mandarin and Cantonese, with tunes played by a traditional Cantonese opera luo gu (gongs and drums) ensemble. When Xiang takes a farewell drink with his concubine, the performers adopt contemporary bangzi and erhuang singing styles singing to xiaoqu (folk music) in traditional Central Plains Mandarin, and in the final scenes, the depiction of Xiang Yu’s psychological complexity is enhanced by the introduction of contemporary melodies. Respecting tradition and artistic innovation, our aim is to create vibrant productions that transcend traditional frameworks and explore new and original works, taking inspiration and elements from other performing art forms, and forging a new direction for Cantonese opera with an experimental and youthful approach.
Cast Keith Lai Xiang Yu Keith Lai graduated from The City University of Hong Kong with a BA in Chinese and is currently a committee member of the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong. A disciple of Cantonese opera masters Man Chin-sui and Poon Sai-lun, Lai also studied under Man Lai-fung and Hon Yan-ming. In 2010, he was recognised with the Most Promising Actor Award in a young male opera role by the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong and Radio Television Hong Kong Radio Five. In 2011, he was presented with the Award for Young Artist (Xiqu) by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council and formed his own troupe dedicated to promoting a new style of Cantonese opera. In recent years, Keith has written a number of Cantonese opera scripts, including Son of Heaven, Breeze Pavilion and Battle of the Throne. He has also adapted two Shakespeare classics, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet, as Cantonese operas: A Dream in Fantasia and The Arrant Revenge.
Janet Wong Yuji Janet Wong is a graduate of The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts Advanced Certificate Programme (Cantonese Opera), where she specialised in dan (female) roles. Inheriting her talent from her father, the renowned Cantonese opera actor Huang Jin-tang, she also studied under Ng Lut-kwong, Liang Gu-yin, Hu Zhi-feng and Li Fung. Wong has performed with various Cantonese opera troupes and also formed her own. In 2011, she became a resident performer in the Hong Kong Young Talent Cantonese Opera Troupe. In 2014, she won the Outstanding Performance Award at West Kowloon’s Rising Stars in Cantonese Opera Showcase, and in 2015 she was presented with the Award for Young Artist (Xiqu) by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. Janet’s recent repertoire includes excerpts from Han Xin Defects to Han from Chu, Irrevocable Loss and Breeze Pavilion.
Ng Lap Hei Groom/ Soldier A graduate from The Cantonese Opera Academy of Hong Kong, Ng Lap Hei is currently an actor in the Cantonese Opera Young Talent Showcase at the Yau Ma Tei Theatre. Ng studied under Wong Yee-man, Yeung Ming, Zhou Zhen-bang, Guan Shi-zhen, He Jia-yao and Tsai Win-wei, and was recognised as champion of the Lim Por Yen Trophy Cantonese Opera Excerpt Division and the Hong Kong Youth Cultural and Arts Competition in 2011. His recent performances include The Eight Mallets, The Battle of Changban Po and Lo Faa Dong.
Team Producer Naomi Chung*
Artistic Team Playwright/ Director/ Music Arranger Keith Lai, Janet Wong Actor Keith Lai, Janet Wong, Ng Lap Hei Ensemble Leader Lee Tik Lun Percussion Ensemble Leader Chan Ting Pong Musicians (Arranged in alphabetical order) Chen Yi Fan, Ho Cheuk Chun, Lai Ka Wai Kevin, Lee Kwok Cheung, Leung Shuk In, Szeto Wai Suet, Yue Kin Long Assistant Producer / Surtitle Operator Peter Lee*
Production Team Set designer Wong Yat Kwan Sound Designer Wan San Hong Lighting Designer Leo Siu Costume Designer Mandy Tam Technical Director Rae Wu* Production Manager Christina Choi* Stage Manager Kami Ng Assistant Stage Manager Chan Chak Kwan Production Electrician Wong Kwan Kwan Wardrobe Mistress Chiu Siu Chun, Lee Mee Yee