Conscious that the support base for Cantonese opera is ageing, some enthusiasts are experimenting with fresh elements to nurture young talent and rouse interest among audiences more interested in pop. According to the Chinese University's Chinese Opera Information Centre, there are a handful of troupes dedicated to this quest.
Tin Ma Music and Opera Association makes great efforts to produce original work rather than rely on old classics, and is noted for innovative musical arrangements, aesthetics and character development.
Utopia Cantonese Opera Workshop incorporates new ideas in set design, scene changes and lighting into the traditional art form, and the Wah Yan Dramatic Society presents Cantonese-style operas in English without compromising on costumes and music.
Yeung Ming Cantonese Opera Troupe is one of the most active. Artistic director Lau Wai-ming is eager to make the art accessible to audiences young and old. "I want to bring something fresh to familiar works," says Lau, who quit her secretarial job two years ago to focus on performing and teaching. "I always look for ways to surprise viewers and try out different things to see if they work.
"But I don't believe in going too far. Otherwise, audiences would have a misguided idea of what Cantonese opera is like. Now people come to my shows to see what I'm up to."
A firm believer in cultivating audiences while young, Lau runs classes for school programmes and has helped kindergarten pupils stage opera versions of classic children's tales such as The Three Little Pigs and The Boy who Cried Wolf.
"It's a pity people in their 20s and 30s aren't interested in Cantonese opera, but I believe that'll change after 10 years because many children are now learning Cantonese opera and they love it," says Lau. "Through the kids, parents and neighbours will also know more about the art. Children play an important role in the future of Cantonese opera."
Lau's most pressing concern, however, is the lack of Cantonese opera teachers. "Many veterans aren't willing to teach because they're too humble; they think they're not qualified.
"I may not be that good, but I want to promote the art. If we don't do it now, it'll be too late."