The Que Shing Chinese Music and Opera group had its 75th anniversary opera night at John Hancock Hall on August 16.
“We enjoy what we do. I love to sing Cantonese opera. I love to play these Cantonese opera show,” said Winnie Leung, an actor and the group’s director. “I love it, and I know the audience enjoys it very much.”
The Chinese opera group, a nonprofit that performs Cantonese opera in Boston, performed six vignettes with the help of sponsors and 80 staff members. Its passion for Cantonese opera was shared by the audience of about 800, mostly Chinese senior citizens.
In 1999, the members were determined to keep Cantonese opera alive, although they no longer hosted out-of-state performances for cost. They put on their own performances with the help of volunteers. “We were literally amateurs. At the beginning, our makeup was not good-looking at all,” Leung said. The opera group got so good that they were even hired to do a show by a New York City company .
For the performance, Leung said it took a year to prepare. Most of the costumes came from China or were handmade. Funding went toward the props, venue and staffing, including musicians from New York, professional actors and sound technicians. Before the show, face makeup took up to three hours.
“When they make a big show like that, it is not easy,” said Peter Ng, an audience member who brought his partner. He attends as many Chinese opera performances as he can and donates to Que Shing. The performance was six vignettes, the first three from “The Story of General Di Ching,” “The Late Emperor Li” and “The Ten Summons for Yim Sung.” The final three vignettes were from “The Peony Pavilion.”
For Tin Ying, who’s volunteered at Que Shing for three years and was an usher at the event, the second vignette resonated with her. “I remember hearing it when I was a kid. So that’s my favorite,” she said. The stories were popular folk tales that many of Ying‘s generation grew up hearing. “I’m sure everybody [in the audience] has different memories of different vignettes.”
“All these elderly love it and we really enjoy doing it for them,” Leung said. “Where else are they going to be able to see a Cantonese opera like what they use to see when they lived in China?”
During intermission, chairman emeritus Arthur Wong was recognized as one of the founders in 1939, along with the two current chairmen Michael Wong and Richard Wing .
Michael Wong, who has been with Que Shing for 22 years, was pleased with the performance. “Some of them [the actors] are new, it is their first time on the stage, and they did a real good job.”
Performer Judy Leung enjoyed herself. “I’m very happy to do this show, and my partner is very good,” she said of actor Ryder Chan.
Chan is an actor from Hong Kong who has performed for about 10 years. He was excited to do a “good job to be in character.”
After the performance, the Que Shing staff celebrated their success with a late dinner at the New Moon Villa restaurant .
“I love team work. I love getting together with this group,” Leung s
aid. “It’s not easy, but we did it.”