Arts Preview Singapore

Preview: Chinatown Opera Festival 2019


Chinatown Business Association (CBA) presents the all new Chinatown Opera Festival this November, the first ever opera festival showcasing Singapore’s rich local heritage and culture. Supported by the Singapore Tourism Board, the festival will run from 20th to 24th November 2019 in the bustling Chinatown district, and hopes to take visitors back in time to re-live the nostalgic days of performance art in the 1950s and 60s via exquisite performances, curated atmosphere and old food items.

From Hainanese and Hokkien opera to the more popular Cantonese opera, expect an array of vibrant performances by local and international troupes such as Chinese Theatre Circle (敦 煌 剧 坊) as well as Guangzhou Hongdou Cantonese Opera Troupe (广州红豆粵剧). Says Ms Lim Yick Suan, Executive Director of CBA: “Our aim is to ensure accessibility, so besides the fact that all our shows will have English surtitles, the shows themselves will also be well-known pieces such as Farewell My Concubine, and deal with familiar topics such as filial piety, righteousness, patriotism, and love.”

Other highlights of the festival are the ‘Chinese Opera Weapons Showcase’, as well as showcases of the “water sleeve” and face changing performances predominant in Chinese Opera. Additionally, a segment of ‘Pop Music and Chinese Opera’ featuring pop songs influenced by Chinese Opera would be introduced for younger audiences, while visitors can also learn Hainanese puppetry making, and even take part in a cosplay competition, where participants dress up in their most imaginative Chinese Opera costumes.

Plenty of free activities will also be available for the public to enjoy, such as photo booths, colouring stations, games stalls and an opera props display, besides food and drink and masks and other merchandise available to purchase. Says Ms Lim: “Previously, there were many reurbishment works happening in the area, but once complete, we could finally carry out our plans to launch our festivals, with the Five Footway Festival in March, and now, the Chinatown Opera Festival. We understand that there are many opera troupes and arts groups in Singapore, and our focus is on showcasing every dialect group in our festival. In future editions, we aim to do rotational programming and curate it such that more groups get representation over time.”

“Chinatown has always been rich in culture and history, and by introducing new programmes and festivals, we can build on that and ensure that throughout the year, it comes alive with events and activities,” she concludes. “We hope festival goers bring back a piece of Singapore and Chinatown’s heritage through a dynamic first-of-its-kind festival where authentic Chinatown memories are relived and local culture are shared across generations.” 

Chinatown Opera Festival 2019 runs from 20th to 24th November 2019 at 2 Banda Street Carpark. Tickets available at Chinatown Visitor Centre, Chinatown Heritage Centre or from Eventbrite. For more information, visit their website here

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