Home-grown opera off to Canada

See Too Hoi Siang (left) plays concubine Zhen Fei while Frances Wong is Emperor Guangxu in the Chinese opera, Intrigues In The Qing Imperial Court.
See Too Hoi Siang (left) plays concubine Zhen Fei while Frances Wong is Emperor Guangxu in the Chinese opera, Intrigues In The Qing Imperial Court.PHOTO: CHINESE THEATRE CIRCLE

Sung in English, Intrigues In The Qing Imperial Court opens a Toronto opera festival and keeps going places

The Chinese opera, Intrigues In The Qing Imperial Court, sung in English to both Western and Chinese music by the Chinese Theatre Circle (CTC), is still going places - 14 years after it was written by the troupe's chairman and playwright Leslie Wong.

Hot on the heels of its performance at the Seventh International Cantonese Opera Festival in China four months ago, CTC will be staging it at another opera festival tomorrow in Toronto, Canada.

A 38-member troupe including performers and musicians, led by artistic director Joanna Wong, left yesterday for Canada to take part in the two-day International Cantonese Opera Festival at the Markham Theatre there from tomorrow.

Besides Singapore's CTC, other opera troupes from Europe, Australia, the United States, China and other South-east Asian countries, including Malaysia, are also taking part in the event. It is organised by the Nanhai District (Canada) Association.

CTC's two-hour-long Intrigues In The Qing Imperial Court, hailed as the world's first full-length Cantonese opera sung entirely in English, will open the festival with Markham city mayor Frank Scarpitti as guest of honour.

CTC will also perform excerpts of the opera and songs by veteran singer Kwan Siu Ping on the second day of the festival on Wednesday, also at Markham Theatre.

"This is the first time a Chinese opera company from Singapore is invited to perform in Canada and we are looking forward to it," says CTC's chairman Wong, 76.

He says the opera was first performed at the Kreta Ayer People's Theatre in 2002.

It has since appeared in cultural festivals in several countries, including Ireland in 2005 and Ukraine in 2010. Excerpts were also performed at the Lincoln Center in New York and South Korea in 2004.

It has also been performed frequently here in the past 14 years.

Wong's wife, artistic director Joanna Wong, 77, plays Empress Cixi while Frances Wong plays Emperor Guangxu and See Too Hoi Siang as his concubine Zhen Fei in the opera set in the Qing dynasty. It is about the tragic 100-day Reformed Movement initiated by the emperor.

See Too, 55, who is also the troupe's deputy leader, says: "We went through many hurdles including visa problems, but I am glad we can make it for the performance in Canada in the end."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2016, with the headline 'Home-grown opera off to Canada'. Print Edition | Subscribe