March 09, 2007

Local Chinese Opera

“I know if Pavarotti comes, we can pay $200 for one ticket because he is cool. But for local traditional opera, we have to give tickets away and plead for people to come. If that continues, we are going to kill our own culture.”…..Chen Soo Sen, MP for Joo Chiat, speaking at the budget debate in parliament.

Mr Chen was saying that the Singapore brand is good but is not cool. So in order to make people pay good money to see good performances of the local variety, we have to develop a cool Singapore image.

Well, how to make Chinese opera cool? Change? Reinvent? Chinese opera in English? I have no answer.

For Chinese opera, local artistes can tell you it is a difficult job putting up an opera show and trying to push ticket sale. Promoting Chinese opera is thankless and relentless work.

Some Chinese opera fans are not supportive of local performances, even good ones. They say foreign troupes are better. Quite true. But local groups also have good artistes and good shows, even full-length operas. And even if they are not as good as foreign artistes, I feel that many local shows are still worth watching and supporting.

Local artistes are generally dedicated to their arts and enthusiastic about their performance. I watched an excerpt at a cc last month. The hua dan was so immersed in her role. Her singing was not very good but her movements were elegant and her enthusiasm was palpable. It was like perfume, its vapour spreading to the audience. You could see that the audience enjoyed the show… and the artiste enjoyed performing.


Tony said...

My thoughts.
As with many local artistes, they need to make it big overseas first before they make it at home.
eg Stephanie Sun, Ah Du, Corinne May etc. One common denominator is that they all belong in the pop culture category.
We do have some that managed to do it from within eg Jeremy Monteiro, Dick Lee, Gurmit Singh etc but its rarer.
What MP Chan perhaps is trying to say is that the Singapore Culture may not be cool because it does not export that easily and the local market here small.
For fringe arts, it makes it difficult because the appreciation of these are small in the first place.
Chinese Opera to be cool again means that first our local standard on the Chinese Language needs to be higher (both in terms of teochew, hokkien, cantonese as well as written chinese in both traditional and simiplified text). Beyond, need to look into promoting the arts within schools where dialects are not even appreciated and frowned upon by the authorities.
Chinese Opera is only one of many outward forms of chinese culture. I certainly do not feel that it to be an exclusive indicator of singapore culture and its popularity.
Cultures evolve and goes through cycles. Niche arts will become popular again as long as there are passionate people involved. Perhaps leaving to the people would be the best approach rather than forcing it.

amai said...

No matter what the outcomes will be, we will still persevere. My troupe may exist for 20 years but there are still people who never heard of us. However, there are some who gradually like our opera and become our regular audience.
It really takes time...
As long as our passion remains, we will still persevere.

Fr is right in this aspect...

Victor said...

It is going to be difficult to get the younger generation in Singapore interested in Chinese opera or even attend a Pavarotti concert here. They'd rather see a movie, surf the net, play LAN games, go clubbing/discotheques, skateboarding, etc. Times and tastes have changed.

Kongming said...

hm... how come he never mention Rain...

Victor said...

Kongming - "etc" means Rain (and Sunshine) included. :)