January 15, 2008


MM Lee Kuan Yew is 84. She just turned 80 last month. He is a brilliant statesman and she is an outstanding opera artiste. Both have a zest for life and a passion for work.

She is Hong Xian Nu or Hong Seen Lui in cantonese, one of the most distinguished cantonese opera artistes of all time. She first stepped onto the opera stage when she was 12, performing the role of a lantern-carrying palace maid in Liu Guo, the traditional opera performed during Lunar New Year. Since then, thousands have become her fans, entranced by her, her acting and her singing. One of them was Aw Yeong Peng Mun (Singapore's nan hua dan) who became her pupil.

In the later years she seldom performed, spending more time grooming the young ones. Nowadays she does not perform anymore but she stays interested in opera and remains engaged in opera activities.

Isn't that what the elderly here are encouraged to do - stay interested, be active. Haha, so don't think of stop working once you cross 55 and rot away at home.

I have not seen any of her live opera performances. The first time I saw her in person was many years ago. It was one evening outside the Kreta Ayer People's Theatre. The occasion I think was the showcase performance by Aw Yeong Peng Mun. I guess she should be around 70 then. Despite her age, she was captivating - a slim elegant figure in a striking red cheongsam. No wonder I thought. No wonder the audience were mesmerized by her in those days. If I were one of those in the audience, who knows, I might have decided to take up opera. Hahaha...

Great artistes like Hong Seen Lui, But Suet Sin, Sun Ma Chai, Lum Kar Sing and Yam Kim Fai are life-long idols of a lot of people, unlike those transitory idol-worship craze.

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