“This is a dying art”, said Carine, the 7th generation Lao Sai Tao Yuan Teochew Opera troupe’s member who only started performing about 3 years ago. “In Singapore, there are only 4 troupes left. We are the oldest. We have been around for 152 years.”, Carine explained. Most of the senior artists in the troupe have been performing for many years. They joined the troupe when they were 9 years old and had to wake up every morning at 5am to practice. “They were, in a way, ‘sold’ to the troupe by their parents”, she said. Many of these senior artists are now in their late 50s and older. The oldest who is still performing is now 77 years old.
Carine also shared that in the old days, no photographer was allowed to photograph the troupe members doing their makeup. “I had to convince my Dad to allow photographers on stage”, she said. She wanted people to know more about this art by looking at the photos that have been taken by many photographers since then. “Most of them are now comfortable with the presence of photographers on stage”, Carine said, referring to the troupe’s members’ acceptance of strangers taking their photographs backstage.
While walking around backstage, I felt the hospitality that was extended to me by the troupe. But I reminded myself not to go in too close into their private space while they were doing their makeups. Every member of the troupe must do their own makeup. It’s fun watching them painting their faces that will transform them into otherworldly characters. Once done with their makeups, they help each other putting on their costumes. They look stunning once all is done.
Carine’s father is now in charge of the troupe while Carine is helping by using social media to connect with more people. “I know we have to change the way we operate. We cannot just perform only at the temples”, she continued. She shared with me that she’s excited about an opportunity she is currently pursuing for the troupe, which is to perform at more modern locations. Negotiation is on going, hence I shall not disclose the location for now. I wish them success in securing the deal.
And show time below. Some of the shots were in-camera double exposure images taken with Fuji X-T1. Enjoy!
The musicians at a Teochew Opera performance are usually hidden behind a curtain. They are the unsung heroes. Without them, the performance will be like food without salt. The two shots below are also double exposure images shot in-camera combining the Erhu player behind the curtain with the opera artists performing on stage.
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