I am known among my colleagues as a ‘factual’ man, i.e., I am not so much into ‘artsy’ things. I usually express my artistic talent in my work, making implant teeth and faces.
Little do people know that I grew up with opera. A few months ago, my wife and I attended a Cantonese opera performance in Singapore – I was able to recall the stories and recite the lyrics. She was no doubt surprised (not sure if she was impressed though!) that I had all those things deep in my memory.
Those who are fans of English literature would most likely remember a few lines from William Shakespeare. Somehow no one considers being able to recite a few lines of Cantonese opera from the late 唐滌生(帝女花) or our University of Hong Kong medical alumus, the late 南海十三郎(燕歸人未) as a requirement for being considered ‘cultured’.
Yes, I grew up with opera on a very regular basis since kindergarten age, and that makes me a ‘cultured’ man. Agree?
My grandma did not have the opportunity to go to school but she was the first child of a teacher. She was one of the rare breed in her time at her village who could read as a girl. She read the newspapers regularly, a habit that certainly rubbed off onto me. She also had a great appetite for Cantonese opera and would take us to watch the performances whenever they were available. I remember the street food alongside the make-shift opera stage and little toys that we bought. Life was simple then but it was not less fun.
The first time I sat in an English language opera/musical was in Chicago in 1991. It was Les Miserables. It was my ex-girlfriend, Moonlake’s, idea and we bought student tickets on an odd Wednesday afternoon. The seats were great – we were quite close to the stage and we had a great time. That was a fantastic musical – it was 100% singing, not even one line in spoken words. I later purchased a cassette tape of the musical and I played it in my car whenever I drove in Los Angeles. Les Miserables is a story of politics, democracy, a love story, and a story with a religious and comical touch too. It is a multidimensional story with depth that is far beyond story telling. The songs are catchy, moving and entertaining – no wonder this musical has been around since the 1980s.
I have sat in numerous musicals since Les Miserables – to name a few: Rent, Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera, Cats, etc. but none was as good as Les Miserables. NONE!
I had the luck of enjoying Les Miserables in London in the summer of 2012. Moon was one up on me, she saw it in New York too. This year Les Miserables is in Singapore. I was happy to enjoy the occasion together with my ex-girlfriend, my mom-in-law (best on this planet) and my two little girls. How things have changed! I watched the show in Chicago for the first time as a big boy with a girlfriend. This time, after 25 years, I watched it on the other side of the world with an entourage of 4 ladies!!! (獨樂樂不如眾樂樂) I could not have asked for more.
There is one thing that did not change though. I stared at my ex-girlfriend sitting next to me – although the time had passed, she is still so piping hot… Now you HAVE TO agree I am a ‘cultured’man, right?