Tong Tik-sang and Yam Kim Fai are two names that have long been revered by Cantonese opera fans. For those who want to admire the touching plots from Tong, or recollect the vivid role portrayals by Yam who is known as "Opera Fans' Lover", or even to sing with Yam and other Cantonese opera artists the famous songs written by Tong, "Splendour of Cantonese Opera: Masters Tong Tik Sang and Yam Kim Fai" exhibition is the answer.
This year (2009) marks the 50th anniversary of Tong Tik-sang's death and the 20th anniversary of Yam Kim Fai. Hong Kong Heritage Museum presents this exhibition which features more than 300 valuable artifacts including Cantonese opera librettos, postbills, special issues, photos, calligraphies, drawings and costumes, to pay tribute to and to demonstrate the lives and creativity of these two masters of Hong Kong Cantonese opera genre in the 20th century. The exhibition will run from tomorrow (December 20) to September 27, 2010.
The exhibition was opened today (December 19) by the Acting Secretary for Home Affairs, Ms Florence Hui Hiu-fai, Deputy Director (Culture) of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mr Chung Ling-hoi, representative of Yam Kim Fai and Pak Suet Sin Charitable Foundation Limited, Miss Mui Suet See, a former student of Yam Kim Fai, Ms Connie Chan, and the Chief Curator of the Heritage Museum, Ms Belinda Wong.
Tong Tik-sang (1917-1959) is widely regarded as the greatest playwright to have graced the world of Cantonese opera in the 20th century Hong Kong. In a career that was cut tragically short, he wrote more than 400 scripts, many of which are noted for their rhetoric and in-depth depictions of the emotional lives of the characters.
Tong had a talent for composing tailor-made scripts to cater for the unique styles of individual opera stars. For example, he wrote "A Forsaken Woman", "The Story of Tung Siu Yuen" and "Snow in June" for famous artist Fong Yim Fun to play characters suffering great misery and sorrow because her vocal style characterised as heavy nasal tones and a sweet but sad voice. Another opera star, Pak Suet Sin, was recognised as eloquent and excellent in recitation, so Tong wrote plays such as "Red Strawberry and Broken Heart" and "Triennial Mourning on the Bridge", which featured a great deal of "kou bai" (narration) and "siu kuk" (fixed tunes), to enable Pak's talents to shine.
Tong was also committed to integrating the artistic elements and aesthetic spirit of Beijing opera and "Kun" opera into Cantonese opera. He adapted numerous classical literary works, including "The Dream in the Peony Pavilion", "Butterfly and Red Pear Blossom", "The Legend of Purple Hairpin" and "The Regeneration in the Red-Plum Chamber". Noted for their profound, beautiful melodies and rhetoric, these works not only have raised Cantonese opera to an even higher artistic level, but also left a great treasure to later generations. The elegant melodies and eloquent language of his lyrics can stir many emotions and memories. Most of his classic scripts were adapted into films, which played an important role in preserving the art of Cantonese opera in Hong Kong.
Yam Kim Fai (1913-1989) started learning Cantonese opera at the age of 14 and took on male roles since then. Later she became an apprentice of Wong Nui Hap, the "female counterpart of Ma Sze Tsang", and learnt the traditional plots, structure and form. In the late 1930s, she become the principal performer in a number of troupes, including the Mui Fa Ying Opera Troupe, the Kwan Fong Yim Ying Opera Troupe, the Kan Fa Yim Ying Opera Troupe, all the while attracting a tremendous following in Guangzhou and Macau.
In 1945, Yam followed the San Sing Opera Troupe and presented her first play in Hong Kong, garnering a warm response from audiences. It was soon after this that Yam performed in an opera written by Tong Tik-sang, "White Poplar, Red Tears", an event that marked their first ever co-operation, which was followed by the subsequent co-operations with Fong Yim Fun to perform many of Tong's famous play. In 1953, Yam, Pak Suet Sin and Chan Kam Tong established the Hung Wan Opera Troupe, which commissioned Tong to pen most of its plays. Over the next few years Yam appeared frequently in a number of famous works by Tong for the Do Bo Opera Troupe and the Lee Wing Wah Opera Troupe. In 1956, Yam and Pak established the Sin Fung Ming Opera Troupe, where Yam drew on her skills to play the roles of witty sentimentalists and scholars as portrayed in the scripts of Tong. Now in the prime of her career, she attracted a large number of fans, who flocked to witness her wide repertoire and outstanding talent.
Yam attained a very high level of artistry in Cantonese opera and excelled at vivid portrayals of the classic roles of destitute scholar, witty sentimentalist, naive civilian and military general. Her performances were characterised by her clear and melodious vocal style, clear pronunciation, a bright and piercing gaze, rich and layered emotions as well as her natural and artistic beauty. It is little wonder that she attracted many fans from different generations and was affectionately dubbed the "Opera Fans' Lover".
Several interactive games are set up inside the exhibition. Visitors can listen to the song excerpts written by Tong Tik-sang and sung by Yam Kim Fai or other famous Cantonese opera artists, then sing those songs by themselves and listen to their performance. Visitors can also vote for their favourite images of Yam Kim Fai. Several films by Tong Tik-sang, some of which starred Yam Kim Fai, are also screened so that their talents in the fields of Cantonese opera and film can be seen.
Apart from the museum's collection, the exhibition also put together valuable artifacts on loan from the Yam Kim Fai and Pak Suet Sin Charitable Foundation Limited, Tong's family, Fong Yim Fun, as well as fans of Yam and Pak. Their generosity in providing valuable collections and information has greatly enriched the content of the exhibition. To tie-in with the exhibition, Heritage Museum will produce a set of four postcards featuring Yam Kim Fai for distribution in four phases to visitors with a valid museum pass or an admission ticket. The first postcard will be distributed starting from tomorrow while the remaining three will be distributed from March 1, May 17 and August 1, 2010.
Located at 1 Man Lam Road, Sha Tin, the Heritage Museum opens from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday, and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. On Christmas Eve and Chinese New Year's Eve, it will be closed at 5pm. It is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays) and the first two days of the Chinese New Year. Admission is $10, with a half-price concession for senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and full-time students. Admission is free on Wednesdays.
Car parking is available at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. Those who prefer to use public transport may take the MTR to Che Kung Temple station, which is within three minutes' walk of the museum.
For enquiries, call 2180 8188. For details of the exhibition, visit the Hong Kong Heritage Museum's website at http://hk.heritage.museum/.
Ends/Saturday, December 19, 2009
Master playwright of Cantonese opera Tong Tak-sang in the 1950s.
The manuscript of figures in "Lady Sheung Ngro in War", designed by Tong Tak-sang in 1954, will be unveiled to the public for the first time at the exhibition.
Yam Kim Fai was affectionately dubbed the "opera fans' lover".
The special issue of the 8th performance of the Sin Fung Ming Opera Troupe in 1959, in which the repertoire "The Regeneration in the Red-Plum Chamber" is featured.
The embroidered red python ceremonial robes were worn by Yam Kim Fai and Pak Suet Sin in the last scene "The Death of Princess Cheung Ping" of "Princess Cheung Ping" between 1968 and 1969.
Pak Suet Sin (third left) visits the Hong Kong Heritage Museum to learn more about the collection of the museum and the conservation work. She generously provided valuable artefacts for display at the exhibition.
Officiating guests at the opening ceremony of "Splendour of Cantonese Opera: Masters Tong Tik Sang and Yam Kim Fai" are (from left) the Deputy Director (Culture) of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mr Chung Ling-hoi, representative of Yam Kim Fai and Pak Suet Sin Charitable Foundation Limited, Miss Mui Suet See, the Acting Secretary for Home Affairs, Ms Florence Hui Hiu-fai, and former student of Yam Kim Fai, Ms Connie Chang.
Representative of Yam Kim Fai and Pak Suet Sin Charitable Foundation Limited, Miss Mui Suet See (left), and former student of Yam Kim Fai, Ms Connie Chan, view the exhibition.
Viewing a costume of Yam Kim Fai are (from left) the Deputy Director (Culture) of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mr Chung Ling-hoi, representative of Yam Kim Fai and Pak Suet Sin Charitable Foundation Limited, Miss Mui Suet See, former student of Yam Kim Fai, Ms Connie Chan, and Acting Secretary for Home Affairs, Ms Florence Hui Hiu-fai.
Viewing the exhibits through the interactive games at the gallery are (from left) the Deputy Director (Culture) of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mr Chung Ling-hoi, the Chief Curator of the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Ms Belinda Wong, the Acting Secretary for Home Affairs, Ms Florence Hui Hiu-fai, and the guest Mr Lau Chin-shek.