Cantonese opera tales often revolve around the passions and sorrows of married life, with writers and actors negotiating what it means to be a good wife or husband.

In this series of four talks, Dr Cheung Ping-kuen, Chairman of the International Association of Theatre Critics (Hong Kong), looks at three character types commonly found in Cantonese opera – the perfect wife, the heartless man and the abandoned woman – exploring the social and cultural significance of these roles and some of the iconic tales they have inspired.

Talk 1: Perfect Wives in Cantonese OperaTalk 2: Heartless Men of Cantonese OperaTalk 3: Abandoned Women in Cantonese OperaTalk 4: Rethinking The Legend of the White Snake: Is Xu Xian’s ingratitude a case of heartlessness or cultural superiority?

Talk 1: Perfect Wives in Cantonese Opera

In Cantonese opera, married women may be meek and loving, powerful and brave, or cunning and bitter. But what constitutes a “perfect wife”? This talk looks at the character traits of different examples of classic female roles and explores to what extent these figures can be viewed as “perfect wives”.

Date:
31 October 2020 (Saturday)

Time:
2:30pm–4:00pm

Venue:
Seminar Hall, 2/F, Xiqu Centre

Talk 2: Heartless Men of Cantonese Opera

There are many kinds of “heartless men” depicted in Cantonese opera – villains bent on betrayal and violence, pathological liars, ladies’ men who woo unsuspecting heroines before abandoning them for selfish ambitions. Taking examples from a selection of classic works, this talk looks at the psychological and emotional journeys of different “heartless men”, exploring the motivation behind their behaviour, and their relevance for modern day audiences.

Date:
7 November 2020 (Saturday)

Time:
2:30pm–4:00pm

Venue:
Seminar Hall, 2/F, Xiqu Centre

Talk 3: Abandoned Women in Cantonese Opera

A central theme of many Cantonese opera tales is the stigma and insecurity faced by divorced or abandoned women. Looking at familiar Cantonese opera stories and examples from world literature, this talk examines how “abandoned women” overcome heartbreak, stigma and the struggle to survive alone, the consequences faced by the men who abandon them, and the notion of abandonment in the modern context.

Date:
21 November 2020 (Saturday)

Time:
2:30pm–4:00pm

Venue:
Seminar Hall, 2/F, Xiqu Centre

Talk 4: Rethinking The Legend of the White Snake: Is Xu Xian’s ingratitude a case of heartlessness or cultural superiority?

In The Legend of the White Snake, despite the fact that Madam White Snake has a human form and goes to battle to rescue her mortal husband Xu Xian, her snake identity remains such a challenge to the notion of a “perfect wife” that it can be manipulated to persuade Xu to abandon her. The final talk looks at whether Xu’s readiness to abandon a devoted wife is typical of “the heartless man” or a reflection of deeply rooted cultural barriers that still exist today.

Date:
28 November 2020 (Saturday)

Time:
2:30pm–4:00pm

Venue:
Seminar Hall, 2/F, Xiqu Centre

Language:
Cantonese

Speaker:
Dr Cheung Ping-kuen

Fee:
Free admission. Limited capacity on a first come, first served basis. Please register online in advance.

Enquiries:
Please contact Ms Chan at (852) 2200 0812 during office hours or email learning@wkcda.hk.

Accessibility Services:
Live Cantonese audio description and Hong Kong sign language interpretation are available upon request with at least 14 days’ advance notice. Wheelchair accessible seats and companion seats are available on a first come, first served basis. Please request at least four days in advance.

Adverse Weather Arrangements:
If a black rainstorm warning or a typhoon signal no. 8 or above is in force three hours before the start of the event, the event will be rescheduled or cancelled.

Remarks:
For the safety of participants, visitors, artists and staff, please note the following health precautions:

  • Please bring your own mask and wear it at all times in the venue.
  • Temperature checks will be carried out before admission. Visitors showing a temperature of 37.5°C or above will not be able to participate.
  • If you have travelled outside of Hong Kong in the past 14 days or are wearing a home quarantine tracking wristband, please wait until your quarantine period is over before visiting West Kowloon.
  • Special Arrangements in Response to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

About the Speaker:

Dr Cheung Ping-kuen

Dr Cheung Ping-kuenDr Cheung Ping-kuen is the Chairman of the International Association of Theatre Critics (Hong Kong) and a part-time lecturer at The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Before retiring, he held posts as the academy’s Head of Liberal Arts Studies (2003 – 2015) and Acting Chair of the School of Chinese Opera (2013 – 2014), and was Director of the Hong Kong Art School from 2015 to 2017.

Between 1996 and 2007, Dr Cheung was a member of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, where he chaired the drama committee and helped shape the landscape of the contemporary Hong Kong arts scene.

Dr Cheung is an experienced theatre practitioner and theatre critic. As a committed drama educator, he was the founding chairman of Hong Kong Drama/Theatre and Education Forum (TEFO) and the co-director of the 6th World Congress of the International Drama and Theatre Education Association in 2007.

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