Sunday, 10 April 2016

Jorge Silva | Chinese Opera | Boston Globe

Photo © Jorge Silva - Courtesy The Boston Globe
A recent photo essay appearing on The Boston Globe's The Big Picture got my attention because it featured photographs of the performances of a Chinese opera in Bangkok. 

Chinese opera is a popular form of drama and musical theatre in China, and elsewhere in Asia where Chinese have established presence, with roots going back to the early periods in China. Together with Greece tragic-comedy and Indian Sanskrit Opera, it's one of the three oldest dramatic art forms in the world.

Many of the features that characterize modern Chinese Opera developed in northern China, particularly Shanxi and Gansu Provinces. These included the use of certain characters: Sheng - the man, Dan - the woman, Hua - painted face, and Chou - the clown.

Chinese opera was virtually killed off during the years of Mao Tse Tung's rule, but was revived in 1976. Since then, there are more than thirty forms of Chinese opera that are regularly performed throughout the country. The most well known are the Qinqiang Opera type, the Beijing Opera, the Shanghai Opera and the Cantonese Opera.

The reasons for my interest in Chinese opera are multifold. I've photographed a performance of Hát Tuồng in Hanoi in 2012. It is one of the oldest art forms in Vietnam, and is said to have existed since the late 12th century. It’s believed to be influenced by Chinese opera performance techniques, but subsequently evolving and changed into a new form embodying Vietnamese characteristics and nature. I wanted to photograph its performers more in depth at the time, but was constrained to do so because I was leading a photo workshop, and couldn't devote enough time to it.

Hong Kong Airport

On my return from Hanoi last month, I viewed a photographical installation in Hing Kong's airport featuring a number of images of Chinese opera performers, and thought it'd be a great forthcoming project.  It would touch all the bases I like: culture, history, music, fashion, and artistic performances. Perhaps I was subconsciously hooked to it after viewing the famous movie, Farewell My Concubine.

Although I'll be in Kuala Lumpur at the end of May, Chinese opera is only performed on certain occasions, however I'll try to do some research beforehand.