Dinning Experience: The Last Cantonese Opera Troupe
A performer steps down from stage to meet the fans
The 1990s saw the revival of Cantonese Opera after decades of silence. Over twenty traditional Cantonese tea houses had their own performing troupes. People would come to eat Dim Sum and drink tea whilst humming along to well-known tunes. This movement to revive Cantonese Opera led to the art form being recognized as a cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2009 but it is still believed to be in danger with more and more youngster preferring popular music.
Of those numerous troupes few remain today. Cantonese Opera is now found in local community halls and professional companies are almost extinct. Ronghua Lou Restaurant is an exception with the Yunfeng Cantonese Opera Troupe which performs everyday at 2:00pm. The audience is composed of elderly people all cheering for their favorite performers and often tipping them generously.
Jiahua, the head of the troupe, learned Cantonese Opera at the age of 13 and later became a professional in the Zhuhai district Cantonese Opera Troupe. But in the 1980s, he had to stop performing and find work as a driver to survive. Today he is proud to have return to performing and told us "I am the only one from my class who is still on stage, I must support this art."
Artists make up in a room in the restaurant.
Jiahua teaches his daughter Cantonese melodies
Tips are always welcome.
(By Jessie Huang, David Keyton)