Princess Iron Fan: The Stories and Music of Cantonese Opera

Sat, Aug 12, 2017 @ 2:30pm - 4:00pm

Tickets (include museum admission): $12/adult; $8/student & senior; Free for MOCA members

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Before Hong Kong films, the most exported entertainment from southern China was Cantonese opera. Older than Peking opera, yet more open to innovation, Cantonese opera thrived not only in its home region but also in Cantonese enclaves around the world, with major stars from Hong Kong and Guangzhou (historically, Canton) regularly reaching out to their international fan base. Today, Cantonese opera still packs in the audiences in southern China, with professional troupes bolstered by an active community of amateur devotees.


This session offers an introduction to Cantonese opera’s traditional stories and musical styles. Learn the difference between a role type and a tune type, between Princess Changping and Princess Iron Fan. Two of Hong Kong’s noted experts guide you through this stylized yet populist entertainment.


Patrick P. Lee is the Hong Kong-based author of two books on Cantonese musical vernacular and a third, An Introduction to Cantonese Opera Music, scheduled for release this fall. A third-generation member of a Macau literati family, he pursued university and postgraduate studies in Hong Kong in art, literature and education. Since retiring from a four-decade career in education policy, he has devoted his attention to Cantonese opera. He has performed three solo recitals at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and toured extensively in Guangzhou, Macau and Shenzhen, with periodic stage appearances in the United States, Canada and Australia. In 2010 he made his concert debut in Amsterdam with musicians from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.


Joanna C. Lee received degrees in piano performance from London’s Royal College of Music and musicology from New York’s Columbia University. Later joining the music faculty at the University of Hong Kong, she received a 12-month grant to document an oral history of amateur Cantonese opera singing in Hong Kong and the American and Canadian diaspora. A longtime Honorary Research Fellow for HKU’s Centre of Asian Studies (2003-11), she is also an active translator and advisor for a broad range of cultural organizations.




Image: Makeup application backstage, ca.1950s, MOCA Collections.