News: “Blast from the Past”: Traditional Street Opera gets Modern Twist

Over 250 people filled the Telok Ayer Green Community Centre last weekend to catch Opera by Moonlight, a presentation of traditional Chinese street opera that was once a fixture of Singapore’s cultural scene. The free event was co-organized by Nick Shen, and the Singapore Kindness Movement, and also featured guest choral and musical performances.

A total of eight performances were slated for the evening and performed in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Teochew, and Hokkien. Each performance was based around a specific cultural theme and designed to encourage reflection on the importance of graciousness and kindness in our society. Classics such as The Peony Pavilion «牡丹亭之游园惊梦» and Liu Ming Yue rescues the Orphan «柳明月救孤儿» were brought to life on stage and the audience learnt more about the significance of each story through the guided discussion that took place after.

“Opera was once a common form of street entertainment around Singapore. It was used not only to provide joy and laughter, but also as an educational channel for traditional values like patriotism, filial piety, love, and forgiveness,” said Nick Shen, founder of events company, Tok Tok Chiang. “By bringing back these performances, we hope to help Singaporeans discover a little more about the history of our street opera culture and revive interest in this disappearing art form.”

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The opening performance saw two established local opera troupes come together for an interpretation of the Six Warriors Opera «六国大封相». The story harks back to a time in China’s Warring States Period where the six kingdoms came together to oppose the Qin kingdom, and touches on the themes of valour and patriotism. The collaboration between the Xin Xin Rong He troupe «新新荣和潮剧团» and the Lao Sai Tao Yuan troupe «老塞桃源潮剧团» was also the first time that two opera troupes have shared the stage in Singapore.

Another highlight of the evening was the performance by a group of visiting African children from the Amitofo Care Centre (ACC) who delivered a choral item in both English and Mandarin. Orphaned and under the care of the ACC in Africa, the children were exposed to Chinese culture from a young age and put their wushu skills on display with an exciting showcase.

“Values like filial piety and love are universal and resonate with people regardless of culture or background. They are also expressions of the kindness within each of us and Opera by Moonlight aims to remind everyone of these values that we commonly share,” said Dr. William Wan, General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement. “Such events also provide us a good platform to come together and interact with one another. If we only made the effort to understand more about each other, a kinder and more gracious society will naturally come to be.”

For more information, please visit www.kindness.sg.

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Information and visuals as kindly shared by SKM and SPRG.