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Cantonese Opera receives new lease of life
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Cantonese opera performers and cultural officials are determined to keep the centuries-old art form alive.

"As globalization speeds up and young Chinese are immersed by other entertainment, various traditional art forms, as well as opera, face severe competition," said Ni Huiying, director of the Guangzhou Cantonese Yueju Opera Troupe.

Cantonese Opera, a traditional Chinese art form that involves music, singing, martial arts, acrobatics and acting, was first developed in the Pearl River Delta region some 400 years ago.

It has been widely popular in the region as well as in Hong Kong and Macao. It has even spread to Southeast Asia and other places.

One survey carried out by the Guangzhou Bureau of Culture in early February last year found that most Cantonese Opera audiences are aged either above 50 or below 20.

The estimated number of opera fans is down to just 2,000 to 3,000 in Guangzhou, according to Ni.

"We are making an effort to inject a new style into the opera, which, we hope, can interest more young people," Ni said.

Ni said traditional opera should keep pace with modern society.

"People, especially the young, have gradually lost interest in Cantonese Opera, because they have found new ways to entertain themselves."

A still from the animation 'The Unruly Princess and Her Honest Husband'.

A still from the animation "The Unruly Princess and Her Honest Husband".

For example, a Cantonese Opera cartoon movie, "the Unruly Princess and Her Honest Husband," (Diaoman Gongzhu Han Fuma), was successful.

The movie mixes opera melodies with modern animated cartoon images. Renowned artist Hong Xiannu dubs the part of the princess.

The movie was initiated by 78-year-old Hong in 2000 and it won the China Movie Huabiao Award four years ago in Beijing.

"The motivation of the movie is to present a new-style Cantonese Yueju opera for young people," Ni said.

Along with artists' efforts, local cultural officials are also working hard with their counterparts in Hong Kong and Macao to recommend that Cantonese opera is included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's world heritage list and thus promote the traditional art to the world.

(China Daily October 29, 2008)

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