Practicing with the musicians from Dong An Xi Qu in a small studio tucked away at Chinatown, various actors enter and exit the space to rehearse their excerpts for performances this weekend. Ranging from young adults to over 70 years of age, the bond they share for Cantonese Opera is what brings them all together on rehearsal nights. The atmosphere is comfortable, soothing almost, and it is fascinating to watch the stories come to life with the music accompaniment. The performance Quintessence seems to be aptly named with the shown dedication for the traditional craft.

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As varied as the age of actors involved, the performances will have plenty of excerpts chosen by the actors themselves to share culture, love and to keep this performance form very much alive in this time.

Having heard the narrative of modern times killing away culture so many times, it was lovely to find out that through YouTube and video sharing sites this part of culture has managed to peaked people’s interests. More of the newer generation have garnered interest in Cantonese Opera and this may mark a healthy growth in younger practitioners today.

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The performances over the weekend have invited guests from overseas as well as actors well-known within the Cantonese Opera circuit. Featuring gender impersonators, four actors among the cast specialise in performing a role of the opposite gender. This requires overcoming of physical behaviours and vocal ranges to properly depict their characters. It is interesting that such a traditional craft have a similar “drag” element to them, but of course, made for showcasing of talent more so than humour and politics.

Even though the style does not differ much from the better known Beijing Opera, Cantonese Opera boasts a different use of music and melody. Spotting a cello being used during rehearsals among other instruments, it is curious how this fusion of musical tones came about. It seems like Quintessence is a showcasing of a traditional craft that has also grown with the times.

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Being performed specially in Cantonese, with English and Mandarin surtitles, this might be a good opportunity to immerse yourself in a tradition that no one talks about enough. With the inclusivity of languages, why not take this as an invitation to the theatre this weekend for some traditional entertainment?


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Cantonese Opera Quintessence

by Chinese Opera Society (Singapore)

Date: 24 – 25th November 2017

Venue: Gateway Theatre

Time: 7pm

Admission: From $20

Call to get tickets:

* Tung On Opera House (Blk 53 Chin Swee Rd, Tel: 98565683)

* Leo Research (10 Jalan Besar #02-30 Sim Lim Tower, Tel: 90231333)

* Furama Florists and Gifts (1 North Bridge Rd #B1-06 High Street Centre, Tel: 63382831)

Photography credits: Darren ‘Merovign’ Tan

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