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Wednesday April 18, 2007

Teochew opera awes audience


It was absolutely mesmerising. A combination of melodious tunes, brilliantly made backdrops, colourful costumes and elaborate make-up, plus great acting and acrobatics too. 

The 50-odd-member Teochew opera troupe, which was flown in from Hong Kong and China by the Theng Chuan Tan Clan Association of Johor, left many in awe and wanting more. 

And this despite the fact that a good portion of the crowd on opening night did not understand the Teochew dialect, and relied on the Chinese subtitles displayed on electronic boards placed on both ends of the stage. 

Quick changes: A change of the tarp and the background changes to that of the outdoors, with strong spotlights to depict sunlight.
Many youngsters associate Chinese opera with high-pitched “wailing” by the actors and actresses, but the “screeching” was non-existent as the performance led by leading Hong Kong opera star Tan Chor Hui was more like a musical, and soothing to the ears. 

Theng Chuan Tan Clan Association of Johor member Tony Tan, who is also in the event’s organising committee, said they flew the group to Malaysia in conjunction with the 18th anniversary of the association’s amateur opera troupe. 

“We know that Tan Chor Hui has many fans in Malaysia, so we thought it would be nice to bring her to perform. She performs in Singapore every alternate year, but this is her first time in Malaysia,” he said. 

Opening night: Long (left) launching the opera show.
Tony went on to add that the 65-year-old Chor Hui had been involved in Teochew opera for more than 40 years. 

“There are many people who came over from Singapore tonight to watch the show, and there are also those who came from other states, Thailand, and even the United States,” he said of the opening night performance on Saturday. 

State tourism and environment committee chairman Freddie Long launched the performance. 

Life-like: With just one table as a prop, the scene looks realistic thanks to the impressive two-dimensional backdrop that looks almost three dimensional.
The performances will take place at Wisma Tiong Hua in Taman Sri Tebrau until April 23. The show starts at 7.45pm, with some 700 seats available daily. 

Tony said there would be a different performance each night, so opera lovers could expect to watch different shows daily. 

Tickets are not sold but given out, and the association relies on donations to recover the costs for organising the opera and paying the performers. 

Tony said it cost about RM300,000 to bring the troupe in and the association had recovered RM200,000 to date. 

“If we do not collect enough, the association will have to absorb the costs. 

“Those interested can get tickets at the venue just before show time,” he said.  

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