If you’ve watched an old Chinese movie or two, then you should be familiar with the traditional opera troupes that used to rove the countrysides providing yearly entertainment to remote villages. The troupes are slowly vanishing, which is too bad, because they are really nice to look at. Check it out.
A photographer followed around one of the few surviving troupes when they toured rural areas of Sichuan and Chongqing this fall. The photo essay, published by Sina last week, starts with a parade that the troupe performs in upon arriving in a village to drum up an audience and some good vibes for their upcoming performance.
The troupe sets up their stage and props preparing for two performances a day. The audience is smaller than in the past and very distinct demographically, consisting almost exclusively of young school children and elderly opera fans (along with the occasional opera junkie farm animal), with the majority of young people having already left for the lights of the big cities.
The majority of the actors are into their 40s and 50s and have been performing for decades. Each actor takes on a variety of roles. Opera is in their blood, and the troupe counts three generations of one family as members.
On a bad day each member of the troupe will make just 50 yuan, while on a good day they’ll pull in 90 yuan.
The performers sleep and eat in area behind the stage that is apparently enough for all ten-member troupe.
After the performance, the actors gather around to count up their night’s tips. Usually, it doesn’t come out to more than 100 RMB.
Traditional Chinese opera is losing its place in modern Chinese society and there have been various efforts made to revive it, including: education and bikinis.
Check out this video to see some really wonderful samples from different Chinese operatic traditions.
by Alex Linder
[Images via Sina]