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|Yam Kim Fai|
Yam Kim Fai (left)
|Chinese name||任劍輝 (traditional)|
|Chinese name||任剑辉 (simplified)|
|Pinyin||Rén Jiànhuī (Mandarin)|
|Jyutping||Jam4 Gim3 Fai1 (Cantonese)|
|Birth name||Yam Lee Chor (任麗初)|
29 December 1912|
|Died||29 November 1989
She was most notable for her unique ability to sing in the lower register. That her opera voice was indistinguishable from a male one allowed her to play either male or female roles, though she usually performed male ones.
Born Yam Lee Chor (任麗初), Yam had been performing with a Cantonese opera troupe since she was young. When Yam was 14, her aunt (小叫天), another Cantonese opera actress, began Yam's formal training. Later, Yam furthered her musical studies with Wong Lui Hap (黃侶俠), who was known for being the female version of Ma Sze Tsang. In 1939, Yam joined an all-female opera troupe (群芳艷影), but she had to flee to Macau when Hong Kong fell to the Japan during the Second Sino-Japanese War. She and a number of other Cantonese opera singers, including Bak Sheut Sin, formed a new opera troupe called New Voice Opera Troupe (新聲劇團).
Yam played the male lead in many Cantonese opera stage productions in Hong Kong, most often opposite Bak Sheut Sin. The two singers reprised many of those roles when the operas were adapted for the screen between 1951 and 1968. Some of Yam's major roles include Liu Mengmei in the Cantonese opera version of The Peony Pavilion, Pei Yu (裴禹) in The Reincarnation of Lady Plum Blossom, Li Yi (李益) in The Legend Of The Purple Hairpin and Zhou Shixian (周世顯) in Tai Nui Fa.
Her last public performance was in 1972, when she and Bak Sheut Sin sang the final scene from Tai Nui Fa together for the TVB telethon event that was hosted for the victims in the 18 June landslide. Yam retired afterwards and moved to Canada during the early 80s. In 1989, she died at her home in Hong Kong due to pleural effusion.
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