Dilemma of Cantonese Opera in vanishing tea houses

By Li Ping | chinadaily.com.cn | 2017-03-14 14:45
Dilemma of Cantonese Opera in vanishing tea houses

A Yueju Opera performer finishes her hair and makeup before a show. [Photo/VCG]

On a warm and humid spring day in Southern China's Guangzhou, a routine performance of the Yueju Opera is staged at the Tongle Restaurant - the only surviving tea house devoted to the traditional performing art form in the capital city of Guangdong province.

When the play reached its climax, some audience members approached the stage and placed tips on the music stand before returning to their seats to continue watching.

Tea houses are the hotbed of time-honored Yueju Opera, or Cantonese Opera, which is rooted in the Cantonese-speaking provincial areas of Guangdong and Guangxi, combining Mandarin operatic traditions and the Cantonese dialect. It's renowned for its bold, emotional, and exaggerated expressions, accompanied by Chinese martial arts. Over the centuries, it has developed a rich repertoire of stories ranging from historical epics to descriptions of daily life. In 2009, it was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

But in modern times, the traditional opera is facing a dilemma in trying to revive its popularity.

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