A million-dollar research and development fund is being set up by the Chinese Opera Institute (COI) to raise standards and promote the traditional performing art form in Singapore.
The Chinese Opera Research and Development Grant, as it is called, will be open to opera troupes here as well as individuals involved in the art, including performers, directors, scriptwriters and researchers.
"We want to give the performing art a boost with financial support before the young of today lose interest in this traditional performing art form completely," said COI chairman Lim Fang Hua, 66, yesterday.
Singapore has nearly 70 amateur Chinese opera troupes, which represent seven genres and perform in Chinese dialects such as Cantonese, Teochew, Hokkien and Hainanese. Many troupes need help to upgrade, modernise and renew themselves.
The institute has raised more than $400,000 in pledges from donors so far. With dollar-for-dollar matching from the Cultural Matching Fund of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), it has almost reached the fund's target of $1 million.
"We are likely to increase the fund's amount when there is a need to do so," said Mr Lim.
COI principal Tan Ooh Chye, 55, said a management board to administer the fund will be formed soon. It will be followed by a selection panel comprising sponsors, Chinese opera practitioners, arts administrators and representatives from the National Arts Council.
Three funding categories have been identified: training, research and publication, as well as content development for things like opera scripts and music composition.
More details will be announced at the institute's first Chinese New Year gathering-cum-dinner for about 500 people from the Chinese opera community, at the Mandarin Orchard Hotel next Thursday.
Acting MCCY Minister Lawrence Wong will launch the fund and present the institute's first Prestige Awards to two of Singapore's oldest practitioners in Chinese opera - Madam Phan Wait Hong, 102, and Mr Hor Chim Or, 95.
Both are Peking opera artistes, with performing careers spanning more than 70 years each.
Madam Phan, a 1992 Cultural Medallion recipient, may be too frail to receive her latest award, but Mr Hor will be there to sing with performers from seven local opera troupes.
"At my age, I am happy that I can still sing and perform and that the young is recognising me with the award," said Mr Hor, a former Singapore national basketball player and founder of the Tian Yun Peking Opera Society.