Before the days of pop concerts, music festivals, and Netflix, Cantonese opera was one of Hong Kong’s most popular forms of entertainment. This genre, which falls within the wide range of Chinese opera and combines music, dance, and art, is often enjoyed on the stage of a dimly-lit theatre. In fact, the timeless craft is so special and unique that it was inscribed onto UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. So if you want to try something different and catch a Cantonese opera show, here is where to find one.
For nearly five decades, Sunbeam Theatre in North Point has been synonymous with Cantonese opera in Hong Kong, playing an important role in our city’s cultural history. This vintage theatre is designed specifically for Cantonese opera performances, with a grand auditorium that holds 1,044 seats, and a mini stage with 340 seats. Shows usually run for five days a week from 7.30pm, with occasional matinees held at 1pm or 1:30pm. The venue also houses a cinema that stages classic and new-release films from Hong Kong, China, and Japan.
Sunbeam Theatre, Kiu Fai Mansion, 423 King’s Rd, North Point, (+852) 2563 2959
Ko Shan Theatre
Opened in 1983, Ko Shan Theatre is a popular venue for Cantonese opera performances as well as related art and culture performances. After several reconstruction projects and expansions, the theatre currently consists of two buildings. The Old Wing is used for large-scale traditional opera performances, while the New Wing is for medium-scale performances, experimental productions, and performances by budding troupes. If you don’t have time to sit down for a whole performance, you can drop by the Cantonese Opera Education and Information Centre, and gain hands-on experience and in-depth knowledge of the art.
Ko Shan Theatre, 77 Ko Shan Road, Hung Hom, Kowloon, (+852) 2740 9222 / (+852) 2330 5662
Yau Ma Tei Theatre
Yau Ma Tei Theatre, which also includes Red Brick building, was revitalised and opened in 2012 as a performing arts venue that promotes and preserves the art of Cantonese opera. This pre-war cinema now boasts an impressive 300-seat auditorium, a stage with orchestra pit, a dressing room, and light and sound control room, as well as a number of multifunctional rooms that are used for holding Cantonese opera-related activities. This humble theatre is favoured by younger performers, and some of the shows even come with English subtitles for non-Cantonese speakers to enjoy.
Yau Ma Tei Theatre, Red Brick Building, 8 Waterloo Road, Kowloon, (+852) 2264 8108
The newly opened Xiqu Centre is Hong Kong’s first performing arts centre designated for the development of Chinese opera, including Cantonese opera. Located in the West Kowloon Cultural District, the stunning eight-storey building houses a grand theatre which accommodates 1,073 seats, a tea house theatre that seats up to 200 people, eight professional studios, and a seminar hall, all specially designed for different types of xiqu (the Mandarin word for Chinese opera) related functions and activities.
Xiqu Centre, 88 Austin Road West, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, (+852) 2200 0022
One of the most traditional and popular ways to watch a Cantonese opera performance is in a mat-shed bamboo theatre. These huge pop-ups appear throughout the year during traditional Chinese festivals such as Chinese New Year and Tin Hau festival. While the theatres are mostly enjoyed by the elderly, younger visitors tend to go for the street food stalls that surround the theatre, which are known to offer all kinds of traditional snacks and modern treats. The biggest and most popular Bamboo Theatre pop-up happens in Tsing Yi around the end of April each year.