Opera troupes including more child performers to draw younger crowd

Children aged five to nine from Sheng Hong Arts Institute will perform a dance set to Chinese operatic music this Saturday.
Children aged five to nine from Sheng Hong Arts Institute will perform a dance set to Chinese operatic music this Saturday.PHOTO: SHENG HONG ARTS INSTITUTE

Chinese opera is usually associated with a more mature audience. However, some opera troupes here are hoping to appeal to a much younger crowd by including young performers in their productions.

For example, this Saturday, 26 children aged between five and nine from Sheng Hong Arts Institute will perform a dance set to Chinese operatic music, complete with painted faces and wearing traditional costumes of the comic character, or chousheng, in Chinese opera.

Part of Opera Extravaganza 2016, the segment, titled The Good Little Comedians, is the highlight of a three-night showcase of 18 local amateur Chinese opera troupes at Golden Theatre. The showcase, which starts on Friday, is organised by the Chinese Opera Institute.

Sheng Hong's artistic director Serene Tan, 26, a National Arts Council scholar and graduate from the Beijing Dance Academy, says the children are Chinese dance students from the institute. Out of the 26, 24 are girls.

"They have been training and practising the dance item for almost a year," she adds. The six-minute dance item is choreographed by top Chinese choreographer Liu Lingli.

Another child artist is 12-year-old Chen Wei Tian, who will perform the solo role of Mei Ying in a Teochew opera excerpt put up by opera troupe Nam Hwa Limited. This performance also takes place on Saturday.

  • BOOK IT / CLASSICS OF CANTONESE OPERA

  • WHERE: Golden Theatre, 6001 Beach Road, Golden Mile Tower, 03-00

    WHEN: Friday, 7pm

    ADMISSION: Free

    OPERA EXTRAVAGANZA 2016

    WHERE: Golden Theatre, 6001 Beach Road, Golden Mile Tower, 03-00

    WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, 7.30pm

    ADMISSION: Free

    INFO: Call 6222-6551 for complimentary tickets

The institute's director and treasurer Tan Yoke Han, 72, says younger performers, such as child dancers from Sheng Hong have been invited to attract younger Singaporeans to Chinese opera.

"Chinese opera has long been seen as an art form for the older generation and we want to change that," he explains.

Besides Sheng Hong and Nam Hwa, other opera troupes such as the three-year-old Xin Opera Association also has many young members. Its vice-chairman Adeline Goh, 53, says the troupe conducts opera classes for children at community centres as well.

The institute's annual opera performances, she says, offer a good platform for amateurs and young opera enthusiasts like her organisation's 40 members to perform. Members from the association will perform a Yue opera excerpt based on a Korean love story on Sunday. Ms Goh plays the female lead.

Other troupes staging performances on Saturday and Sunday include Ping Sheh, Singapore Hainan Society, Xiu Yu Opera Troupe, Thau Yong Amateur Musical Association and opera troupes from community clubs such as those from Boon Lay and Marine Parade.

The institute's chairman Lim Fang Hua, 68, says it is staging a special one-night Classics Of Cantonese Opera on Friday at the request of amateur Cantonese opera troupes here.

Five troupes, including Chinese Cultural Arts Centre and Lam Kam Ping Cantonese Opera Performing Association, will perform opera excerpts.

The institute will host its annual dinner for representatives from more than 40 amateur opera troupes here next Tuesday, where its annual Orchids Awards will be given out to outstanding opera performers and arts troupes for the second year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2016, with the headline 'Opera troupes including more child performers to draw younger crowd'. Print Edition | Subscribe