In Commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of the Death of
the 'Versatile Opera Queen' Tang Bik-wan
Tang Bik-wan was a household name of the 1950s and 60s' Hong Kong film industry. Credited with over 280 movies of numerous genres and themes made between 1950 and 1990, including many adaptations from her Cantonese opera masterpieces, she was hailed the 'Versatile Opera Queen'. Tang breathed life into her characters – the sorrowful lady; the comical sister; the classic beauty; even the charming dandy or the one and only 'Ma Da' (mother). Her many brilliant performances had graced the silver screen and are remembered even till today. In commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of the death of Tang, the Archive is showcasing 18 classical works of her five distinctive personas and many of them are rare gems that have not been presented at the Archive before.
Special thanks to Helen Lui Oi-yin, daughter of Tang Bik-wan for her generous support to this programme.
Tang Bik-wan (1926-1991), born Tang Cheuk-fu, was a Guangdong native. At a young age, she received vocal training from Cantonese opera composer Liu Liu-liu, before moving to Hong Kong in 1937. There she became an apprentice under renowned male huadan Tang Chiu Lan Fong, and played minor roles in opera troupes including Tai Ping. Fearing of the war, she moved to Macau in 1942 and rose to stardom after performing in The Hanging of Kwan Lai-chun. Tang subsequently joined numerous Cantonese opera troupes as the leading huadan. In 1947, she formed Bik Wan Tin Cantonese Opera Troupe and presented notable acts – The Gardener's Daughter, The Unmanly Man, Moving House, among others. Princess and the Poor Scholar staged in 1977 was her last opera performance. Tang found success with her versatility to perform various characters, and even sheng roles, which gave her the moniker the 'Versatile Opera Queen'.
In 1950, Tang Bik Wan ventured into film and starred in multiple popular titles, including The Mad Monk by the Sea (1953) and Mad Monk (1958), Lady with a Silver and Bitter Tongue (1956), The Secret Book (1961), Delicious Snacks (1965), and many more. She achieved fame with her portrayal of numerous distinctively different personas. Her comical acts were particularly remarkable, with the ability to freely switch between dialects while remaining articulate. Tang was also founder of three film companies, Baobao, Baohua and Kam Big, which had produced 46 films.
Tang had already become a top star since the late 1950s and was twice awarded the 'Queen of Huadan' by the newspaper in 1959 and 1961. An avid promoter of Cantonese operatic culture, Tang toured with her troupe to Singapore, Malaysia and the United States in 1963 and 1971, and groomed protégés such as Cecilia Lee Fung-sing, Chan Leung-chung and Chan Ka Ming. Tang returned to film and television in the 1980s, and starred as the notable 'Ma Da' in long-running drama The Seasons (1987-1989). She passed away in March 1991.
The contents of the programme do not represent the views of the presenter. The presenter reserves the right to change the programme should unavoidable circumstances make it necessary.