Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Promoting Chinese Opera

I've read a post by a member of Thau Yong Musical Association in one of the local arts newgroups about recuiting new members yesterday. The contents of the post was rather sad, and although I don't know him, I felt I should help him a bit; afterall, we're all in the amateur performing arts scene here trying our bit to promote our own culture. Therefore I've decided to post the contents here:

Dear all,

this is Javier from Thau Yong Musical Association. I'm currentlycalling for new members to join in the society. I'm even willing tosponsor for your one year membership. For what reason, you say?

Because I'm close to dying (metaphorically and indirectly literally).I cannot be the only person, the only drop of new blood, pushing forthe survival of this 76 year old body.

I need help. I'm presently jammed in a situation where the society is 100% dependant on me alone. They are unable to propose for funding in English; they are unable to provide me with accounts in English; they are unable to think of new ideas to attract more new blood; they do not know how to use the computer to scan and protect the close to decomposing photos and music scores from long before the pre-war days;they only know the black vinyl disc player is going to die on us soon, and they will not be able to hear those tracks very soon.

If nobody come forth to help, and I collapse & or give up, thissociety will die, as the present members slowly wither into ashes.

The Han Music section members, their median age is 70.

The Teochew Music section members, we are the last complete group in Singapore and all of them have senior citizen concession passes.

The Teochew Opera section is more active, but the truth is not everybody has the gift for the stage.

Please do not be resistant of the idea because you say you do not understand the language. For your information, teochew opera isperformed in wen yan wen (similar to Shakespearean language) andproper Teochew (we speak in informal slang in Singapore, best e.g. Nang ker jiack lor ti. Lor ti or Roti is MALAY. Bread in proper Teochew is not even the characters we are familiar in Chinese - MianBao. The correct phrase is Mi Bao (or rice buns).

All those aunties and uncles who watch Teochew opera, do you thinkthey know wen yan wen? As a degree holder in Public Relations, I cannot even understand Shakesphere! But they watch and theyunderstand,because there is hand language and the music! The music is lovely... of the 300 Chinese operas in mainland China, it is the onlyopera that created their own drum genre of music out of opera. The teochew music is always so gently tragic, slowly seeping into thesouls... They appreciate and love it because this was their onlyentertainment when they were young, in short this is their culture.Where did they live when they were young, may I ask?

Singapore, my dears. This is our culture. Why do people say there is none?

But if everybody is ignoring me now, in my desperate plea, anotherpart of our history and culture will die. Because I cannot carry this burden of the hundreds who have lived and died for Thau Yong in herglorious 75 years by myself...

This is my own opinion and my own plea; the society did not ask me todo this or even know about this. If you want to laugh or gossip, please target it to me, because I can see what is going to happen, even though many are blissfully or maybe purposely ignorant ofthe dark pit they are encircling into, as they slowly step into their inevitable paths of no return...

Even if you cannot be bothered, please spare just 3 seconds to somebody, you think that may care.

Extremely burned-out

I agree fully with what Javier wrote about the classic language used in Chinese opera. Many people tend to use the lack of understanding of classic Chinese as an excuse to shun away from Chinese opera. To be honest, I've watched contemporary drama whereby the language used and directing sense is so abstract that after the show ended I was still trying to figure out what was going on throughout the show. And yet, most of these shows were almost fullhouse! So if these people can accept such shows, why not Chinese opera? Of course, I'm not saying that everyone should embrace Chinese opera wholeheartedly, but they shouldn't be too biased against it. Some people simply turn away from Chinese opera even without knowing what or how it looks like, probably not wanting their peers to ridicule them for having anything to do with an artform "for the old folks". I feel that's a pity; on one hand we are trying to promote our culture, and then our hard work are being put down by a small bunch of biased people.

Hence, I'd like to urge arts supporters out there to have a more "open" mind towards Chinese opera. It's fine if you don't seriously have no interest in Chinese opera, just don't treat it as some low form of entertainment solely for the elderly people and bored!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Shanghai Yue Opera Company to Stage Revised Edition of "Romance of the Carp Fairy"

Recently, Wang Zhiping and Zheng Guofeng had appeared in "Ming Jia Ming Duan Ren Ni Dian" TV programme in Shanghai talking about their latest show, "Romance of the Carp Fairy". This is yet again another remake of popular Yueju classics, alongside "Romance of the Red Mansion", "Butterfly Lovers" and "The Pearl Pagoda".

Wang Zhiping and Zheng Guofeng took the the lead roles of the Carp Fairy and scholar Zhang Zhen respectively. The story tells of a carp fairy who fell in love in poor scholar Zhang Zhen. She decided to impersonate the latter's fiancee Jin Mudan in order to get close to him, only to create havoc when 2 "Mudan" appeared at the same time in the Jins' residence. Jin Chong, father of Jin Mudan, hired Heavenly Priest Zhang to subdue the carp fairy, and under the help of Goddess of Mercy, the carp fairy escaped death, but was faced with a major decision: to either give up her love for the mortal scholar and seek to become an immortal, or to pluck out all the scales from her body to become a mortal being with Zhang Zhen. The carp fairy chose the second choice, and after enduring the pains of plucking out her scales, she was finally reunited with her loved one.

"Romance of the Carp Fairy" will be staged at Shanghai Yifu Stage on 26 - 28 February this month, ticket prices are between 60RMB to 300RMB available at

Promotional flyer for "Romance of the Carp Fairy"