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Melodic heritage

Updated: 2013-07-24 11:16
By Liu Xiangrui ( China Daily)
Melodic heritage

Yan Laowu's Sichuan Opera troupe, one of the surviving small "torch troupes" in Sichuan, performs in Qingquan, a small town in suburban Chengdu. Photos by Liu Xiangrui / China Daily

While high-tech modern theaters are the rave these days, Sichuan operas performed on makeshift stages still attract diehard fans. Liu Xiangrui reports in Chengdu.

Melodic heritage

It's a simple theater, and dozens of elderly are seen seated on rows of chairs long before the show begins.

During the three-hour-long show, some in the audience are so enthralled that they tap their fingers to the music, while others whisper to those around them. There are also some who are seen snoring away.

The bamboo chairs creak whenever someone occasionally rise for the toilet or to replenish the cups with free tea, but the singing goes uninterrupted.

It's a common sight every afternoon at a compound in suburb Chengdu's Qingquan town, the latest performing site of Yan Laowu's Sichuan Opera troupe.

As a cultural label of the province, age-old traditional Sichuan Opera had its glorious days. In the past, the province had a large number of government-funded and private troupes.

Melodic heritage

Opera actors take life as it comes

But, many county-level troupes were disbanded in the 1980s because of cultural reform and the thriving of TV and films. Yet some former troupe members have decided to continue a stage life by re-establishing their own troupes.

Such troupes travel to new places and perform mainly for grassroots communities.

There are about 15 grassroots troupes that perform regularly in Chengdu and its surrounding areas.

Such troupes are called "torch troupes" by locals, as the shows are usually staged at night in the open in the past, and many fans would come from distant villages with torches in hands.

"The troupes may be disbanded because of financial pressure. But just like a torch that might be blown off when the wind is too strong, it can also be lighted again by someone who really loves it at any time," Yan explains.

Yan's troupe, formed by four couples - former actors from county-level troupes, and several amateur performers who are big opera fans - is a typical "torch troupe". The members are relatives, friends or people from the same place.

Melodic heritage

Melodic heritage

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