October 30, 2011


The Cantonese street opera at Chinatown sponsored by disciples of the San Wang Wu Ti religious sect completed its 15-day performance a few days ago. I think this is the only remaining Cantonese street opera in Chinatown. I watched only a few of its 30 shows.

Some fans preferred to watch from the outside.

The lead sheng and the two lead dans are popular. They received '$$$ gifts' frequently throughout the 15 days. Each flower design had a 1000-dollar note attached.

The spectator hall is wide and well-ventilated. The stage as well as the backstage is big and spacious. However, at times smoke from the burning of incense papers and joss-sticks drifted over from the prayer hall. And on some occasions, while watching the show you might also hear loud proclamations by San Wang Wu Ti's master while performing his ceremony in the prayer hall.

Attendance at the night shows were good. On Saturday and Sunday nights and the two nights of Charity songs, the organizers had to add extra seats. There were people who watched all the night and weekend shows and there were people who watched many of the shows. However, you could see that the audience consisted of mostly elderly people.

In years to come, some of these people will not be around and some will find it too cumbersome or tiring to go to watch street operas. But there are not enough younger fans to replace them.

When will the curtain fall on the SWWT street opera in Chinatown?

I found out from older fans that in the old days there were several street operas in Chinatown. For example, there used to be one at Mosque Street and there was also one at Keong Siak Road. And SWWT used to bring in troupes twice a year.

Through the years, the curtain fell on them one by one.

As for the SWWT opera, I heard they might not be able to use that piece of land for their activities in future as the land has been slated for development. Then the SWWT master of rituals might not want to do the rituals, like cutting his tongue with a knife, anymore as he is getting older. This will affect income for SWWT..

So you see, there are many negative factors regarding the continuation of the last Chinatown street opera.


Linda said...

Thanjk you Frannxis, you are an angel

Anonymous said...

frannxis i wish you find another clip like this one and both excellent shows.


FL said...

Hi, Frannxis, for me I remember the famous place for staging the Cantonese wayang was at around Banda Street area in the late 50S and 60s. This Chinatown site, the Cantonese the called "San tang". As a young kid then, I remember when the Cantonese operas were on, esp at nights, the place was very congested. I roamed this area very often as a kid because I was helping my late dad's business in Pagoda Street at nights. Thanks for your blog.

Unknown said...

Hi Frannxis, may I know if there are more of such performances? My grandmother wants to watch. But I tried googling but to no avail.