Chinese street opera

I love taking walks around our neighborhood. There’s always something interesting going on.  A few weeks ago, we stumbled on a Hokkien opera playing at the temple just behind our place.  Sad to say, we could only make out bits and pieces of it.  I came home and read up a little, and this is what I found off Infopedia.

The three main genres of wayang in Singapore are those of the three largest Chinese dialect groups in Singapore: fujianxi (Hokkien opera), chaoju (Teochew opera) and yueju (Cantonese opera), each with distinctive features.

It is performed on a makeshift wooden stage that can be easily assembled and dismantled. A canvas sheet supported by timber or steel poles shelters the stage from the elements.

The backstage where performers dress and rest is separated from the main stage by a scenic backdrop called shoujiu which is made of embroidered silk. The orchestra is seated at the front corners of the stage.

Chinese opera music is loud and distinctive. Live music is provided by a six- or seven-member orchestra which is divided into two sections: the wen (“civil”), consisting of stringed and woodwind instruments; and the wu (“military”), consisting of percussion instruments. The wen instruments accompany the performers’ singing and provide mood-setting background music, while the wu instruments provide rhythm, set the pace of the music, and heighten the mood in acrobatic action or fight scenes.

We were the youngest faces in the crowd that day.  With little interest and appreciation from the younger generation, Chinese opera is now a dying art.  Given that this is an important part of our cultural heritage, and for the little old ladies in the front row who were thoroughly enjoying the performance, I’m hoping that the show will go on.

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10 thoughts on “Chinese street opera”

  1. This was so interesting — but there ought to be a reminder on your blog to be sure and enlarge the photos. Sometimes I forget under time pressure, and there’s no comparison. The photos are so wonderful in their large size!
    In Japan I went to see bunraku, the traditional puppet show. The audience there too is mostly older people, or a few traditionalists. Older arts are having a tough time, which is too bad.

    1. That’s a good idea! I sometimes have problems with formatting when there’s a whole series of photos so they tend to be smaller. I’ve heard of bunraku but didn’t get a chance to see it when we were in Osaka. With dying interest, it’s a sad reality for older arts. Even when it comes to traditional food, many of the older shops here are having a tough time, with many not expecting to last for long.

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