The Xiqu Centre, the Hong Kong Chinese opera center under the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA), will officially open on Jan. 20.
For Liza Wang Ming-chuen, who chairs the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong, a professional organization representing Cantonese opera performers in the city, the center’s opening represents the collective and painstaking efforts of countless individuals to propagate the art of Cantonese opera.
Speaking at the pre-opening ceremony of the Xiqu Centre on Sunday, with Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as the officiating guest, Wang called on the industry to strike a balance between production quality and cost.
She said her organization encountered so many hurdles and controversies since it pushed for the establishment of the center several years ago, but all the hard work has finally paid off.
Wang criticized the WKCDA for setting exorbitant rents and rigid terms for renters of the venue, which she said could become a burden for performing groups.
As such, Wang, who is a local diva, veteran actress and master of ceremonies on the Hong Kong entertainment circuit, urged the industry to focus not only on producing good shows but also on putting budgets under good control, which she said is very challenging, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
She also called on the WKCDA to have the new center well-positioned and to focus on Chinese operas without introducing too many foreign influences and factors so that its position in the art world will not be blurred.
Responding to Wang’s remarks, WKCDA chairman Henry Tang Ying-yen told reporters attending the ceremony that if they take a close look, they will see the rents set for the venue are not high at all.
Located on the eastern edge of the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD), the Xiqu Centre is an eight-storey building designed for different types of xiqu-related functions and activities, and dedicated to promoting the rich heritage of xiqu, the WKCD website said.
Data show it costs HK$22,000 to rent the venue for nine hours, and the WKCDA is entitled to get 8 percent of ticket sales.
In comparison, the privately owned Sunbeam Theatre in North Point, also a venue for Cantonese operas, charges a renter HK$40,000 for four hours, while the government-run Ko Shan Theatre in Hung Hom charges around HK$8,860 for four hours and around HK$17,000 for eight hours.
While Tang disagreed with Wang’s criticism about the rent, the former chief secretary thanked her and her organization for having offered invaluable views and insights during the establishment of the center, noting that its opening marks a new stage in the development of the West Kowloon Cultural District.
Tang and Wang hugged each other, seen by some as a token of reconciliation, in a photo-taking session.
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