Grand opening of Yau Ma Tei Theatre promotes further development of Cantonese opera
The Yau Ma Tei Theatre (YMTT), a Grade 2 historic building, has been converted into a contemporary performing arts venue, in particular for the promotion of Cantonese opera. The Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, today (July 17) officiated at the grand opening of the revitalised YMTT.
Other officiating guests were the Chairman of the Cantonese Opera Advisory Committee, Mr Charles Chow; the Chairman of the Cantonese Opera Development Fund Advisory Committee, Mr Frankie Yeung; the Chairperson of the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong, Dr Liza Wang; the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mrs Betty Fung; and the Director of Architectural Services, Mr Leung Koon-kee.
Among the celebrities and Cantonese opera stars attending the ceremony were Ms Hung Sin-nui, Mr Yuen Siu-fai, Mr Law Kar-ying, Mr Li Chi-kei, Mr Sun Kim-long, Mr Li Lung, Mr Liu Kwok-sum, Mr Yau Sing-po and Ms Wan Fai-yin. The Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong performed the Cantonese opera works "Blessing by the God of Fortune" and "A Fairy Delivers Her Son to the Mortal Father" right after the opening ceremony.
Presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and performed by well-known opera stars as well as young artists of the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong, the traditional Cantonese opera works "Prime Minister of Six States" and "Birthday of the God of Venus" were staged at the Theatre of the YMTT in the evening and were met with an enthusiastic response from the public with full-house attendance.
Yau Ma Tei is one of the most interesting and colourful neighbourhoods in Hong Kong. The vibrancy of the Fruit Market, the singing performances at Yung Shue Tau, old tenement buildings and traditional stores create an irresistible urban charm. The YMTT, an integral part of the Yau Ma Tei community, has also witnessed the development of Hong Kong cinema.
The building, which opened in June 1930, is the only pre-World War II cinema building that remains in the urban area. It was meant to be a modest building and was built with brick and granite, the most basic and common materials at the time. It is characterised by mixed Chinese and Western design including its Chinese pitched roof, an art deco façade and Dutch gable walls, and the most striking features are the two pillars at the front entrance, engraved with crying and laughing masks, as well as the theatre's proscenium arch.
It was once a popular spot for film buffs to see their favourite stars on-screen and has provided leisure and entertainment for residents in the area with many fond memories. According to existing records, its first film, "A Plum with Him" was shown on June 21, 1930. Western silent classics like Charlie Chaplin's "Behind the Screen" and "City Lights" had also been screened at the theatre.
In addition to film screenings, live shows ranging from kung fu performances to dances and small-scale Cantonese performances were staged in the theatre. Some of the famous Cantonese opera artists had performed in the theatre early in their careers. Due to changes in both the mode of operation for cinemas and the habits of cinemagoers, many cinemas were struggling to survive by the late 1980s. The YMTT was not able to meet these challenges and had to close its business in July 1998. It was classified as a Grade 2 historic building by the Antiquities Advisory Board in the same year.
The Red Brick Building adjacent to the YMTT was built in 1895 as an engineer's office for a major pumping station in Kowloon. It is the oldest surviving water pumping station building of the Water Supplies Department. The station ceased operation in 1911 and the Red Brick Building was classified in 2000 as a Grade 1 historic building. Its special features include the red brick façade, cast iron rainwater pipes and hopper heads, arched verandahs and granite coping stones and pad stones to gable.
Conservation and conversion works were launched in 2009 to inject new life into the two buildings. The YMTT (including the theatre and the Red Brick Building) has now been converted into a performing arts venue for the promotion of various forms of Chinese opera, and in particular as a training and performance venue for nurturing Cantonese opera talents. The Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong, the venue partner at the YMTT since April this year, has the mission of nurturing up-and-coming and young Cantonese opera performers.
The grand opening fortnight celebration will be held from today until July 29 with events including a Fun Day, a Seminar on the Building and Heritage Conservation of the YMTT, guided tours, performance by the Tianjin Song Art Troupe for the Chinese Opera Festival 2012, and a series of Cantonese Opera Young Talent Showcase performances (Part 1) of the YMTT venue partnership scheme with programmes including "The Gold Life-saving Medal", "The Dragon Order", "The Warrior's Marriage", "The Ten-Year Dream", "The Story of Lu Yanqiu and Mei Yubing", "A Pedestal of Rouge Fragrance" and "The Lotus Lamp". There will also be a film programme entitled "Opera Sight and Sound at Yau Ma Tei Theatre", taking place at the Hong Kong Film Archive Cinema.
Detailed programme information can be found in the programme leaflet distributed at all performing venues of the LCSD. For enquiries, please browse the webpages at www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/CulturalService/ymtt/en/c_programmes_1.php#1 and www.lcsd.gov.hk/ce/CulturalService/filmprog/english/2012ymtt/2012ymtt_index.html or call 2264 8108.
Ends/Tuesday, July 17, 2012
The Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, today (July 17) officiates at the grand opening of the revitalised Yau Ma Tei Theatre.
Mr Leung officiates at the grand opening of the revitalised Yau Ma Tei Theatre and its lion eye-dotting ceremony.
Officiating at the grand opening of the Yau Ma Tei Theatre are (from left) the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mrs Betty Fung; the Chairman of the Cantonese Opera Advisory Committee, Mr Charles Chow; Mr Leung; the Chairman of the Cantonese Opera Development Fund Advisory Committee, Mr Frankie Yeung; the Chairperson of the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong, Dr Liza Wang; and the Director of Architectural Services, Mr Leung Koon-kee.
The Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong performs the Cantonese opera works "Blessing by the God of Fortune" and "A Fairy Delivers Her Son to the Mortal Father" right after the opening ceremony.
The Yau Ma Tei Theatre after its conversion.