“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.