Off Stage

Chinese opera singer's funniest moment on stage

Cantonese opera singer Philip Chan.
Cantonese opera singer Philip Chan.PHOTO: COURTESY OF PHILIP CHAN

Home-grown Cantonese opera veteran singer Philip Chan, 54, will stage a show, Personae - Philip Chan's World Of Cantonese Opera, on Saturday. He has more than 30 years of experience and is known as a wenwusheng actor or someone who can play both civil and martial characters.

He and his fellow performers will present five excerpts and three songs, from classics such as Flooding Jinshan Monastery and Fantasy Of Fate. Life speaks to him ahead of his show.

Do you remember your first performance?

My first performance was in the 1980s. I was very excited yet at the same time very nervous and worried about how it would turn out. However, I felt encouraged after I received a lot of positive comments and decided to pursue my interest in Cantonese opera.

Cantonese opera singer Philip Chan can play both civil and martial roles. PHOTO: COURTESY OF PHILIP CHAN

What are your pre-show rituals?

Usually I sit down backstage to relax and compose myself; to charge energy for my upcoming performance.

Do you get nervous on stage and how do you overcome it?

Yes, I get nervous but I always take a deep breath and stay focused on the show to calm myself down.

Have you forgotten your lines and how did you get around it?

I do forget my lines once in a while, but I usually let the music flow through, fill the missing line with my own words and move on to the next line.


    WHERE: Kreta Ayer People's Theatre

    WHEN: Saturday, 7.15pm

    ADMISSION: $10 to $50, from Tung On Opera House or Furama Florist N Gift, call 9488-8168

What reactions do you get from the audience?

Sometimes, I hear loud applause from the audience that would encourage me to do even better for the performance. Post-show feedback from the audience also pushes me to scale greater heights.

What's the strangest or funniest thing that has happened to you on stage?

On one occasion, the performer playing opposite me wore a beard in the wrong position. I could hardly hold back from laughing out loud when I saw that. I had to steal a few moments of silent laughter whenever I got the chance to turn my head away from the audience.

What do you usually do after a show?

After a show, I have a good rest and from the next day, I gather feedback from senior practitioners and friends who have watched my performance.

What do you like about Cantonese opera?

The most appealing feature about Cantonese opera are the poetic verses combined with rich melodies. In addition, the luxurious embroidered costumes and the techniques in elegant dance-like movements are also pull factors.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2015, with the headline 'Stifling laughter when performer wore beard wrongly'. Print Edition | Subscribe