Monday, 23 October 2017

Yan Yang Tian Opera Troupe | Kuala Lumpur

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy | All Rights Reserved
I've been in Kuala Lumpur for exactly a week today, and have yet to shake off the dreadful jet lag that comes with traveling from one of the globe to the other...metaphorically-speaking. 

There's quite an activity amongst the Taoist community here on account of the Nine Emperor Gods festival; whose observance and rituals occur in KL's temples. The largest of these rituals occurs in the Kau Ong Yah Temple in Ampang...however this post is about the ancillary events of Cantonese Opera that are performed at some of these temples; essentially to entertain these gods on their arrival to earth.

The most elaborate performance is held at the Leng Eng Tian Khien Ong Tai Tay Temple (yes, it's that long of a name) in Petaling Jaya, where it's attended by a large number of temple devotees, as well as by photographers who take delight in going backstage to capture the actors' make up sessions and costumes before they come on stage.

Here, the Yan Yang Tian opera troupe comes to perform traditional Cantonese opera during the Nine Emperor Gods Festival. I read that the troupe's owner is Elizabeth Choy who's over 80 years old, and who manages the 20 persons troupe with an iron fist. 

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy | All Rights Reserved
The backstage attracts photographers (mostly local) like a magnetic field. I was backstage on two separate evenings, and while there was a few irritable photographers on the first, the second evening was characterized by extremely civil individuals...ceding space to others when necessary.

I'm not too fond of taking pictures of the performers' reflections in their mirrors whilst applying their makeup...since it's trite and repetitive. Although I have some of those for the eventual narrative gallery, I preferred to use a wide angle lens to get the whole (messy) scene. It should be said that the actors spent their sleeping hours on the floor of the backstage, so the mess is understandable. 

I was impressed by the quality of the costumes, and told that these were sourced from Guangzhou, Shanghai and Hong Kong. In fact, two of the actors flew in from Hong Kong to take part in these shows.

The atmosphere is very laid-back, with spectators grabbing plastic chairs from somewhere in the temple, and drinking sugar cane juice and other beverages that are sold outside the temple's main door. In fact, I even saw a stand selling sushi in plastic wrap like at the supermarkets.

Children play near the stage, and when they feel like it, climb over the few steps to get a better look at the performers. Nothing is too formal here.

For those interested: I used the Fuji X-Pro2 with a 16-55mm lens, a 18-135mm lens as well as a Zeiss 12mm for the back stage. I also used the Fuji GFX50s and its 63mm lens during the performance and backstage.