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Opera troupes find ways to survive pandemic

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

Li Shujian, head of Yuju Opera Troupe in Henna province [Photo provided to China Daily]

Building a brand

Han Shangyou, vice-president of Douyin, said an average of 3,200 viewers watched each livestreamed traditional Chinese opera shown on the platform last year.

"This means that each show attracted the same number of people as the capacity of a medium-sized theater," Han said.

"With easy access to social media platforms, artists today can build a brand and a following," he added.

Li Shujian, head of the Yuju Opera Troupe in Henan province, said: "Due to the pandemic, many traditional Chinese opera troupes now have fewer shows to perform. We don't want to see our artists unemployed. Social media platforms are a great support for them, both as a way to connect with audiences and as a way to earn additional income."

A Yuju Opera actor for four decades, Li has livestreamed shows on Douyin since 2020 with artists from his troupe. Yuju Opera originated and thrived in Henan in the late Ming (1368-1644) and early Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

Li said: "I've performed more than 100 shows annually for 45 years. Let's say we have audiences of 2,000 in theaters and that about 10 million people have watched our shows in these four decades. However, within two months we could reach 200 million people through livestreaming shows. Isn't this amazing?"

He added that he has witnessed the fluctuating fortunes of Yuju Opera and many other traditional types of Chinese opera. In the 1990s, such operas experienced hard times, with many troupes having no audiences, and young people unwilling to learn the ancient art forms.

"Thanks to the government, we have survived with financial and policy support. We have overcome many challenges. Now, despite the fact that the pandemic has heavily affected the performing arts scene, we will overcome this as well," Li said.

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