Premieres on 8 April, Fri, 8pm
In Cantonese with English and Mandarin subtitles
Inscribed on UNESCO’s Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009, Cantonese opera is a traditional art form loved by young and old alike in Singapore and Hong Kong through the decades. In this online chat, local veteran Cantonese opera artist, Christopher Choo, and award-winning opera artist from Hong Kong, Keith Lai, will be exchanging their views and experiences of practising the traditional art form.
Choo is the only disciple of the legendary master Leng Chi Pak, who adorned Choo with his stage name ‘Zhen Bang’. During his career, Choo also studied under the late Ren Da Xun, a famous master of the Beijing operatic style in Hong Kong, and the well-known Cantonese opera actor and Singapore Cultural Medallion recipient, Joanna Wong Quee Heng.
Since starting his operatic pursuit in 1976, Choo has been on a mission to revive the Cantonese and other operatic art forms in Singapore. It is his dream that the plethora of operatic art forms be passed on to future generations.
Choo specialises in the laosheng (elderly male) role, and also takes on the clown, painted faces, elderly female role, scholarly and warrior male roles. He is an all-rounded Chinese opera performer and has graced many stages in China, UK, US, Japan and Egypt on various occasions. As a pioneer graduate of LASALLE College of the Arts in Directing, Choo has accumulated close to 50 years of experience in the performing arts scene. He is also one of the few opera artists who is capable of both acting and directing. Choo is a familiar face at various Chinese opera arts festivals and seminars in Singapore. Besides the operatic arts, Choo is also involved with directing and acting in the local Chinese and English theatre scene.
Choo is an incumbent member of the arts assessment panel with the Singapore National Arts Council. He was also on the adjudicators’ panel for many arts awards. In 2012, he received a special contributions award conferred by the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts and in 2014, he was recognised as a “Friend of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth”.
Keith Lai graduated from the City University of Hong Kong with a BA in Chinese and is currently a committee member of the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong. A protégé of Cantonese opera masters, Man Chin-sui and Poon Sai-lun, Lai studied under Man Lai-fung and Hon Yan-ming. In 2010, he was recognised with the Most Promising Actor Award (Young Male Opera Role) by the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong and RTHK Radio Five. In 2011, he was presented with the Award for Young Artist (Xiqu) by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council and subsequently formed his own troupe dedicated to promoting a new style of Cantonese opera. As a librettist, Keith wrote Son of Heaven, Breezy Pavilion and Battle of the Throne. He also adapted two Shakespeare classics, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet into Cantonese operas: A Dream in Fantasia and The Arrant Revenge.
Shi Suen’s rich career in voice and acting spans 40 years. For over 20 years, she was a dubbing producer for MediaCorp where she wrote scripts, edited transcripts, directed and supervised local and foreign actors in dialogue delivery for TV dramas, entertainment shows and documentaries. She has also worked in the capacity of voice director for production houses and companies like Raintree Pictures, StarHub Cable Vision and Shaw Brothers. Her specialty in voice work extends to emceeing and hosting Chinese variety shows.
Shi Suen’s work as an actor is just as rich with lead roles in Mandarin TV productions such as School Days (七彩学堂), I Want to Say Thank You and movies including Taxi, Taxi, and Everybody’s Business (人人有份). She was also casted in lead roles in English productions including The Yang Sisters, where she worked alongside Cheng Pei Pei, and Maggi and Me where she co-stared with Adrian Pang and Fiona Xie. Her lead roles in short films include The Three Sisters, The Perm and Areola Borealis.
Shi Suen continues building her experience and shares her vast knowledge as a communication and linguistics trainer at Nanyang Technological University, the Regional Training and Resource Centre, Ngee Ann Poly, Singapore Media Academy, junior colleges and secondary schools.
A showcase of a traditional art form
Chinese opera doyen Christopher Choo pays homage to his beloved art form and honours the memory of his late master, Leng Chi Pak.