The Chinese Wu Opera wowed the Singapore audience with its unique show at Kreta Ayer Theatre at Chinatown last weekend. The show was organized as part of Mid-Autumn festival.
It was a wonderful experience even though we couldn’t understand what was being said. The performers’ acrobatic skills were amazing. What was particularly fascinating was the change of masks and colorful costumes. It seemed truly magical when actors changed masks in seconds. The display of stunning stunts by the actors was a visual delight.
Wu Opera is an art form of traditional Chinese theater that combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and martial arts. It is the second major theatrical genre in Zhejiang, with a history of over 400 years. It has a longer history than the world-famous Peking Opera. Since Wu Opera had a profound influence on the development of Peking Opera, it was considered as the forefather of Peking Opera by the legendary opera artist Mei Langfang.
The performing art was extremely popular in the Ming and Qing Dynasty court and has come to be regarded as one of the most important cultural treasures of China. It is based in Jinhua City of Zhejiang Province, in southeastern China.
In recent years, following the rapid and dramatic changes in concepts and lifestyles of the Chinese people, the survival of Wu Opera is facing a big challenge. The art form isn’t popular among the younger generation.
Originated in Jinhua, Zhejiang Province, Wu opera inherited many musical elements from Kunqu opera, which is widely regarded as the ancestor of Beijing opera, Anhui opera, and many local operas in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces.
Wu Opera used to be held in the open air in rural areas. As long sleeves were at first not adopted for costumes, performers always made a lot of movements using their wrists and fingers.
Founded in 1956, the Wu Opera Troupe of Zhejiang has made commendable efforts to restore the Wu opera, the second major theatrical genre in Zhejiang.
As we were leaving Kreta Ayer Theatre, we were the cynosure of all eyes as we were the only foreigners at the show.
The Singapore government deserves praise for bringing the Zhejiang troupe to the city and letting the locals savor the ancient Chinese performing art.