chapter  9
17 Pages

Cantonese Opera

WithChan Sau-yan

Cantonese opera is a regional genre within the Chinese opera genus that comprises 348 regional styles. Cantonese opera and operatic singing shows are being staged every year, which probably outnumber the total deliverables of all eleven government-subsidized groups. A number of factors account for the persistent vitality of Cantonese opera. By using Cantonese, the everyday dialect spoken by over ninety percent of the locals, the genre is intelligible to most people and thus touches the core of their cultural identity. According to the Cantonese opera historian Cheng May-bo, Cantonese opera might have taken its early shape in the 1850s, which saw the emergence of a number of elements that contributed to the identity of Cantonese opera. Although Cantonese opera was then growing rapidly, the stiff competition among operatic companies had probably resulted in the elimination of quite a number of them. The productions of new operas of new subject matters would go hand in hand with musical innovations.