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Cantonese opera star donates 3,000 items to heritage museum

Renowned Cantonese opera artist Ng Kwan Lai today (February 23) donated over 3,000 items of operatic memorabilia to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum.

The donation includes costumes and accessories, trunks, props, librettos, publicity publications and photographs. The gift not only greatly enhances the museum's Cantonese opera collection, but also enriches the public's understanding of the development of Cantonese opera and operatic movies in Hong Kong.

Speaking at today's donation ceremony, the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Ms Anissa Wong Sean-yee, noted that the Heritage Museum had been collecting Cantonese opera treasures since the 1980s.

"With support from some famous artists, Cantonese opera fellows, scholars and members of the public, the museum has assembled over 20,000 Cantonese opera-related items," Ms Wong said.

"The invaluable donation from Ms Ng will help the study of the development of Cantonese opera in Hong Kong. It also greatly enriches the museum's collection on Cantonese opera.

"I would like to express my deepest gratitude to her. Her donation will be well cared for by the Heritage Museum. The items will be used for academic study, and will also be arranged for exhibition. A selection of the items are now on display at the Cantonese Opera Heritage Hall for public viewing," Ms Wong said.

Ng Kwan Lai, with the birth name Ng Wan, is a renowned Cantonese opera artist. She enrolled in the Hong Kong Academy of Cantonese Opera in 1953 and was trained by Cantonese opera virtuoso Chan Fei Nung. A year later, she embarked on her stage career.

Endowed with a clear and pleasant voice, she was adept at playing both the role of "tsing yi" (gentle young woman) and the female warrior role. In 1955, Ng established the Lai Sing Opera Troupe. Her brilliant performance in "How Leung Hung Yuk's War Drum Caused the Jin Army to Retreat" made her one of the most successful artists playing the role of "fa dan" (principal female) in Cantonese opera. Following her performances in "Beauty's Grave", "Two Immortals at the Pavilion of the Moon", "Madam Lee Sam Neung" and "Presenting a Sword at Hundred-Flower Pavilion", written by the legendary playwright Tong Tik Sang Ng became a household name.

She starred in more than 150 films from 1955 to 1967. Her most memorable films include "How Leung Hung Yuk's War Drum Caused the Jin Army to Retreat", "Madam Lee Sam Neung", which are adaptations from stage. In 1960, the film, "The Unroyal Prince", broke box-office records. Apart from operatic movies, Ng also starred in a number of contemporary movies. In 1962, she founded the San Lai Sing Film Company, and became involved in the production of movies.

From the 1970s to the 1980s, Ng joined the troupe formed by Lam Kar Sing in which she performed in such new works as "The Story of Chu Pin's Loyalty to Sung Dynasty" and "Clever Lin Xiang Yu Saving the Kingdom Zhao". During that period, she also toured the US and Canada. From 1988 to 1990, Ng established the San Lai Sing Opera Troupe.

Her last performance, "Ng Kwan Lai's Rendezvous with her Singapore Fans" in Singapore in 1991, marked the end of Ng's stellar career.

Her donation is the most impressive in terms of quality, quantity and variety among all items donated by Cantonese opera artists to the Heritage Museum. The items include costumes and accessories such as headdresses, chignons, boots and shoes used on stage and screen by "fa dan" from the 1950s to the 1990s. Other items are librettos and scripts used by Ng for stage and screen, publicity materials, audio-visual materials and an assortment of photographs of Ng. All give an insight into her career.

The Cantonese Opera Heritage Hall in the Heritage Museum displays a wide variety of operatic treasures archived by the museum.

Located at 1 Man Lam Road in Sha Tin, the Heritage Museum opens from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday, and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays). 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.

A free shuttle bus operates between the Sha Tin KCR Station and the Heritage Museum from 1pm to 6pm on Saturdays and from 1pm to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays.

For enquiries, call 2180 8188 or visit the Heritage Museum's website at .

Ends/Monday, February 23, 2004
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