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Opera troupes find ways to survive pandemic

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2022-05-16 07:28

Pan Hongxing, performer from Huangmeixi Opera Troupe pf Huaining county [Photo provided to China Daily]

Hard times

As a middle school student, Liu started to learn Huangmeixi Opera at a local art school. She joined Huangmeixi Opera Troupe of Huaining county after she graduated in 1991.

However, at that time, the company was struggling to survive because the art form was in decline. Liu often spent one to two months touring with the troupe to perform at villages in Anhui. She was paid about 90 yuan in the first month, but many performers left because of the low wages.

"Conditions for artists with the troupe were poor. On tour, we brought our own bedding. Most of the time, we performed on informal stages, but I never considered leaving, because being a Huangmeixi Opera actress was my dream and the only thing I wanted to do," Liu said.

In 2008, 17 years after Liu became a Huangmeixi Opera performer, she had the opportunity to play the leading role in an original production titled Women of Duxiu Mountain, which premiered at the annual Anqing Huangmeixi Opera Festival in 2009 and won the top award. A year later, the production won Liu the best acting award at the China Theater Festival.

Later, the production was introduced to more audiences after being screened on CCTV's traditional opera channel, making Liu a star Huangmeixi Opera performer.

In 2010, when Liu became head of Huangmeixi Opera Troupe of Huaining county, the first thing she did was to recruit young talent.

One of the young performers Liu hired is Pan Hongxing, who was 24 at the time. Born in Huaining county, Pan also grew up listening to Huangmeixi Opera songs. However, he dreamed of becoming a pop star because he is a big fan of such music and is a good singer.

"I wanted to learn singing, so when the Huaining county troupe came to my middle school to recruit new students, I applied. I had no idea I was going to learn this art form," said Pan, now 36.

It only took him a year to learn to sing Huangmeixi Opera pieces, and thanks to his talent, Pan was chosen to perform in Singapore.

"The more I learn about it, the better I understand the ancient art form and the deeper I fall in love with it," Pan said, adding that in his home area, Huaining county, people sing Huangmeixi Opera in places such as parks, squares and on river banks as a form of entertainment.

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