Hokkien Opera renaissance in Singapore
The largest ever Hokkien Opera Gala “XUE GANG – The Fire of Youth” is set to perform at the Kallang Theatre on 6 August.
Presented by the Bedok Community Centre and the Chinese Opera Institute, the production boasts of the most veteran opera performers in Singapore from Xin Sai Hong Hokkien Opera Troupe, Xiao Kee Lin Opera Troupe, Sio Gek Leng Hokkien Opera Troupe and Aixin Lovely Opera House.
Also performing will be students from Bukit Panjang Government High School, Xing Hai Arts Centre Martial Arts Troupe, Yilin Music Studio Choir, and the Bedok CC Lion Dance Troupe.
The orchestra for the opera will be conducted by Meastro Wang Yahui. “A production of this scale requires at least 150 people, cast and crew”, said the Artistic Director, Mr Zhuang Haining. “I think this could possibly be the largest ever local production for Hokkien Opera in Singapore.”
Hokkien opera and Singapore Chinese
Hokkien Opera had always been a mainstay in Singapore for many cultural and religious events. Performing at temple festivals, it was one of the few forms of entertainment of our Chinese forefathers, at least 40% of which in Singapore are of Hokkien descent.
When Chinatownlogy interviewed Mr Zhuang Hai Ning at Bedok CC, the cast was preparing for a publicity photo taking session. What was surprising was that the cast were clad in Tang Dynasty period costumes, slightly different from the traditional Opera costumes we usually see in Singapore.
When asked, Mdm Xiao Jin Zhi, 75, a veteran actress who will be performing exclaimed, “The costumes are to fit the period and culture of the opera, the Tang Dynasty! We feel that the production, although traditional, have many elements of theatrical beauty.”
Tradition and modernity
Other than the specially designed costumes, other elements such as set design will be one which has never been used in Singapore before. Much of the backdrop will be done by 3-D Animation, especially commissioned by the production for this event.
Music, although traditional, will be performed by a symphonic orchestra. Composer for the opera, Chua Jon Lin said, “It would be appropriate to enhance traditional Hokkien Opera Music with the sort of musical richness the modern day audience is used to. I feel that in keeping with the traditional, it is also important to cater to the needs and taste of the modern audience, WITHOUT sacrificing the elements of the traditional.”
Rehearsals are now well underway, and the veteran performers are all the more serious in rehearsals as many of them say, this might possibly by their swan song.
Many old troupes have closed within the past 5 years, and more are to cease performance. Sin Sai Hong Hokkien Opera Troupe, having performed for the audience of Malaysia and Singapore for the past 110 years, have announced that they will be having their final curtain call at the end of this lunar year.
Like a birth of a new phoenix, new blood and new troupes that arises out of the ashes of defunct troops will bring Hokkien opera to new heights.
Our companion articles presents the new blood in the Hokkien opera scene in Singapore. find out what motivate these young people to learn an ancient art form.
Tickets priced at $22, $38, $58, $72 and $98 are available at the Bedok Community Centre, or you may wish to call the HOTLINE: 9133 9683 for more information.