Is it the final curtain for Chinese opera in Singapore?

Is it the final curtain for Chinese opera in Singapore?
PHOTO: Esplanade

How much longer can Chinese opera continue to perform in Singapore, or even China where it came from more than 2,000 years ago?

This and other questions related to the traditional performing arts' future will be raised by more than 20 Chinese opera scholars and practitioners during a two-day international seminar at The Pod, National Library Building, starting today.

The participants, who are from places like China, Japan, Canada and Singapore, will present papers at the second International Academic Chinese Opera Seminar which is being organised by the Traditional Arts Centre here.

The centre's founder and artistic director, Ms Cai Bixia, 43, said: "Many highlight the challenges ahead, such as succession and the need to innovate and change in order to survive."

For example, the paper from Professor Sun Huizhu of the Shanghai Chinese Opera Institute shows how Chinese opera can flourish overseas based on its distinctive ethnic characteristics.

Professor Kang Hailing from the China Performing Arts Academy, in her paper, uses Singapore as a case study to illustrate how Chinese opera has continued to evolve in a multiracial society.

China-born Ms Cai, herself a former Chinese opera actress and now a Singaporean, first organised the international seminar two years ago. She explained: "I am making this a biennial event because I believe it is good for both practitioners and the audience to know the issues involved. Other papers dwell into specific opera genres and performances in great depth for those who are academically inclined."

Dr Yu Weijia, a theatre lecturer from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts who is presenting a paper on yangbanxi or model performances during the Chinese Revolution, agreed. He said: "Such a seminar can help provide greater understanding of Chinese opera and raise standards of its practitioners to prevent it from being marginalised."

In conjunction with the seminar, the Fujian Provincial Experimental Min Opera Theatre from China is staging a full-length comic opera, titled The Demotion, at the Kreta Ayer People's Theatre tonight at 7.30pm. Admission is free.

The Zhejiang Wu Opera Troupe will perform the opera excerpt from the classic Madam White Snake tomorrow night also at the same theatre at 7.30pm.

Seven local Chinese opera groups will also perform there and they include Ping Sheh and the youth theatre group of the Traditional Arts Centre. Tickets at $30, $20 and $10 will be available at the door.

This article was first published on Nov 7, 2015.
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