Esplanade offered rich cultural feast at this year's Mid-Autumn Festival through traditional Chinese art forms and Chinese opera. A street opera stage was specially built at the Esplanade to allow visitors enjoy free Chinese street opera performances for three consecutive nights, starting from Friday (28th) to Sunday (30th September).
The stage is located at the Esplanade's open-air waterfront space, The Edge and it played host to local groups performing Cantonese, Teochew and Hokkien Opera. There were three 45-minute shows each night featuring excerpts of popular productions such as The Legend of White Snake and Justice Bao.
I went for the performance staged by the Xin Xin Rong He 新新荣和潮剧 Teochew Opera Troupe last evening, Saturday and indeed, it was an eye-opener for me. I will be doing two blog posts (Part 1 & 2) to document on this Teochew Opera performance - one on the front stage performance and the other will be on behind the scenes of a street opera stage.
These days, Chinese street opera is performed mainly at Chinese temple functions and events. The street opera held at this Esplanade Moonfest brought back the heyday of street opera and also expose younger audiences to this form of art. Chinese and English subtitles were provided for the street opera performances to make it accessible to audiences who do not understand Chinese dialects.
Chinese opera, particularly street opera, used to be a common form of entertainment for people of all races here. However, with changing times and tastes, it has fallen out of favour with the masses. The Teochew Opera is a fast disappearing art form and culture here in Singapore, largely because not many and particularly in this present generation, understand the dialect enough to truly appreciate it. But on the other hand, this also makes them exquisite & precious in the art scene giving these performers the much needed recognition which they so much deserve. Chinese opera is one of the three oldest dramatic art forms in the world.
Like all versions of Chinese opera, it is a traditional Chinese art form, involving music, singing, martial arts, acrobatics and acting. Surrounded by the rich and graceful tunes of Teochew opera music and backed by a choral accompaniment, the audience at the Moonfest arts festival were transported back to a delightful night in Little Swatow (Shantou). Swatow or Shantou in Mandarin is a province in China, the original homeland of most of Teochew population.
My teochew language is very simple and I speak it only to my grandmother. I'm trying my hardest to never forget. Up till now, I still don't have a reliable method of differentiating the dialect between Teochew and Hokkien. I usually rely on my gut instinct. Sometimes this leaves me sounding like an opera singer singing flat.
Teochew opera brings back some nice memories of my childhood and watching movies with my grandmother. I enjoyed accompanying my grandmother in the past watching teochew opera as a child without understanding a single word, and although i still dont understand most of what they are saying, the beautifully woven costumes and dramatic displays of emotions always intrigue me.
The actors' sharp vocals rang out clear and strong over the ensemble of Teochew stringed instrument, gong, drum and Chinese flute as subtitles on the screens allowed the audience to connect with their stories of joy and sorrow.
Thumbs up to Xin Xin Rong He Teochew Opera Troupe for putting such an amazing performance last night at this year's Esplanade Moonfest Event!
Long Enough But Not To Be Forgotten - Teochew Opera 今天的潮剧, 台前幕后 Part 2 - Behind The Scene of A Street Opera Stage - To be continued.....