Richmond Culture Days: Cantonese Opera Costumes and Performance Techniques Illustrations

After the makeup demonstration, we proceeded to another room for the demonstration of the performance techniques, follow with a short Cantonese Opera performance.


Cantonese Opera originates from the Southern part of China. It includes elements like music, singing, martial arts and acting.

There is generally a lead actor, a lead actress, a supporting actor, a supporting actress, a clown figure and a bearded male role. The female sings and speaks in soprano voice to indicate a young female role. The female performer who undertakes an old lady role will sings and speaks in their ordinary or tenor voice. There are female who act as a male role and they sing and speak in their ordinary voice or tenor voice.


The Cantonese Opera costumes are usually elaborate and handmade. One costume can cost few thousands of dollars. The costumes represent the status of the performer. The one above is likely for a princess or empress with the motives of phoenixes. The belt also represents of high statue in the society, usually for officials.


The above head piece is used for high official or imperial members.


Rosa Cheng performed a fairy dance during the demonstrations. The long ribbons are used to depict movements of the clouds.


The above makeup and costume is of the role of a maid. This makeup can be used to represent a child too.


Here. Rosa and Jenny Tsang (as the maid) performed “a tour of the garden” performance. After the performance, Rosa explained to the audiences what some of the gestures meant. The gestures include getting out of the house (a small step over a beam gesture), looking at their own reflections in a pond gesture, crossing the bridge gesture (move in very tiny steps sideways) and going upstairs gesture.

The above gesture using the water sleeve (the long white sleeve) is about a scene where a lady is looking at a guy. Due to the conservative nature, the lady uses her sleeve to partially cover her face.

We also learned that when the performer tries to fold/raise the water sleeve to expose her hand, the performer cannot do it with more than three movements, otherwise the audiences attention will be distracted.

Rosa also showed us some of the gadgets used in Cantonese Opera like one that represents horse riding, one used as a weapon in combat scene and one that used by a fairy or monk. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of them.


Rosa Ho in a costume of a Tang dynasty emperor.


The short performance at the end of the illustration is about two concubines fighting for the affection of a Tang Emperor. In fact, the lady on the left in yellow is Yang Gwuifei (by Connie Mah) which I had blogged about in the Huaqing Hot Springs post in Xian. The emperor in the scene is Emperor Xuanzong while the concubine on the right is Concubine Mui (by Becky Lee).

I enjoyed the performance very much. The cultural days events are certainly very informative.

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