Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Golden Phoenix

Chiling Village of Zhangpu county is a place in Zhangpu county resided mainly by the She minority group. Despite it's relatively unknown status as compared to other big cities in Zhangzhou, it has found itself in the limelight after an opera troupe from this village, Jin Feng Xiangju Opera Troupe, became the top touring Hokkien opera troupe in Malaysia (as described in my previous post). Troupe leader Lan Yajin has now started a second opera troupe, and is planning to conquer other overseas venues like Singapore as well. I certainly look forward to that day!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Malaysia's "Champion Touring Hokkien Opera Troupe"

For those who are avid Hokkien opera fans in Singapore would probably know that the "champion touring Hokkien opera troupe" (local ones excluded) in Singapore is Xiamen Municipality Gezi Opera Troupe. Then how many know who's the Malaysian equivalent of the same honour? It's Jinfeng Xiangju Troupe from Zhangpu county, Zhangzhou. Other than geographical differences of their home base, Jinfeng Xiangju Opera Troupe is different from Xiamen Municipality Gezi Opera Troupe too in the sense it is not a government-sponsored troupe. Can you image this: since the troupe's founding 4 years ago, it had performed 393 days in total! With such a glorious achievement, I really want to see how the troupe's like in action...

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Teochew Opera Version of "The Teacher, The Thief"

Our troupe has not been performing our classic "The Teacher, The Thief" for quite a while already. It's kind of a good thing for us, less our audience complain that we're always doing the same show over and over again! So here is a clip of this classic show, not in Hokkien, but in Teochew, by Tan Chor Hwee's troupe for your enjoyment!

Tang Meiyun's Female Impersonation

Tang Meiyun is a renowned xiaosheng actress in Taiwanese opera. Because of her suave and manly stage appearance, it is very hard for one to accept if she was to cross over to take on dan roles. In fact, in one of her shows, "Qin Xuemei Punishes Her Son", she took on the title role of Qin Xuemei and the result was devastating. However, recently I found this clip on, and I thought it wasn't that bad. This show was titled "Zhuang Zhou Tests His Wife", in which Tang Meiyun took on the role of Zhuang Zhou's wife Tian Yun. Her acting wasn't very outstanding, I would say, but I feel that her "manliness" was suitable for this role, as Tian Yun is not a typical feminine character, but a very tough woman who had to make a very head-splitting decisionas to whether to chop off her "dead" husband's head to save her" lover" (her "lover" was in fact the transformation of her husband, who had faked death to test Tian Yun's loyalty towards him), or preserve her husband's corpse and let her "lover" die of a strange illness. In this aspect, an actress who is too "soft" or feminine would be deemed inappropriate because it would not bring out the role's strong character.

Tang Meiyun as a dan

Tang Meiyun as a sheng

Wacky Pseudo-Taiwanese Opera "The Butterfly Lovers"

Here're clips from a pseudo-Taiwanese opera show (It's actually Pili puppet show overlaid with Taiwanese opera soundtrack), and I thought it was real wacky. Enjoy!

A Clip from Gezi Opera "Shao Jianghai"

"Shao Jianghai" is the most classic and popular show of Xiamen Municipality Gezi Opera Troupe. It has even gained the reputation of being "the most classic show of a minor opera genre" by critics. Because of this show, Chinese opera practitioners outside Fujian province started to realise Gezi opera's existence. This show is also the first Gezi opera show to compete with other major opera genres to clinch the prestigious "National Project to the Distillation Of the Stage Art" award (top 10 selected works will be made into DVDs and released China wide). Unfortunately, it did not made it into the finals, but then again, it was a big achievement to even make it into the semi-finals, a major step to push this operatic form beyond the boundaries of Fujian province.

However, when there're achievements, there're negative aspects too. Since 1999, the troupe has been putting full attention into this show, having made up to 5 major revisions till date. This amount of attention has caused the troupe to put less focus on other shows, and it was said that other than "The Grievances of Dou'E", which the troupe had specially produced to take part in the International Hokkien Opera Festival in Taipei in 2006, they had virtually no new shows. A Xiamen friend of mine even lamented that for the past 5 years in Xiamen, all he can watch of the troupe was "Shao Jianghai" and nothing else!

On a side note: Xiamen Municipality Gezi Opera Troupe is scheduled to perform in Singapore in around April, in conjunction with the birthday celebration of Lord Chenghuang at Lor Koo Chye Sheng Hong Temple. Details will be put up once released by the temple.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Xiamen Municipality Gezi Opera Troupe's "Shao Jianghai" to Appear on CCTV's Spring Festival Chinese Opera Gala Once Again

Xiamen Municipality Gezi Opera Troupe will be featured in CCTV (China Central Television)'s Spring Festival Chinese Opera Gala once again this year. This year, the troupe will send representatives to perform in an excerpt from their most popular show to date, "Shao Jianghai". This will be their second time performing excerpts from Shao Jianghai again on this gala, the first being in 2003. Back then, they performed a song titled "Garbage Soup", a light-hearted song from the opera, which was originally written by the late Gezi opera master Shao Jianghai for a real Gezi opera show. This time round, the troupe will be performing another excerpt titled "The Plowing Song". This excerpt is another highlight of the opera, which features actors using both traditional Chinese opera gestures, contemporary theatre techniques and modern dance movements to create the impression of rice planting in the padi field.

Xiamen Municipality Gezi Opera Troupe is the only Gezi opera troupe that has even appeared on the Spring Festival Chinese Opera Gala, not once, but 5 times, including this year. In 2002, the troupe had their debut appearance on the gala performing selection from "The Egretta Garzetta Goddess". That was followed by "Garbage Song" from "Shao Jianghai" in 2003, "Bride from Amoy" in 2004, and selection from "The Teacher, The Thief" in 2006.