Cantonese Yueju opera performers and fans are determined to keep the centuries-old art form alive.
More than 2,000 artists from about 100 domestic and overseas Cantonese Yueju Opera troupes have put on 36 opera shows at the Fourth International Cantonese Opera Festival, which ends today in Guangzhou, capital city of South China's Guangdong Province.
Seminars focusing on the development of Cantonese Yueju Opera were also held.
Cantonese Yueju Opera, a traditional Chinese art form that involves music, singing, martial arts, acrobatics and acting, was first developed in the Pearl River Delta area 400 years ago. It has been widely popular in the region as well as in Hong Kong and Macao. It even spread to Southeast Asia and other places where fans live.
As globalization speeds up and young Chinese are immersed by more other entertainment, various traditional art forms as well as the opera face severe competition.
New styles are urged for those old genres.
One English language Cantonese Yueju Opera performed by the Singapore-based Chinese Theatre Circle (CTC) attracted some attention among young audiences. The play, "A Sad Love Story in the Qing Dynasty (Qinggong Yiheng)," telling the love story of Emperor Guangxu and his concubine Zheng, is the first English language opera of its kind.
Set up in 1981, the CTC has been promoting the art of Chinese opera, dance and music locally and overseas.
It has staged more than 2,000 performances in Singapore and 20 other countries and regions.
The festival also features a Cantonese Yueju Opera cartoon movie, "The Unruly Princess and Her Honest Husband," (Diaoman Gongzhu Gangfuma). The movie, claiming to be the first of its kind, was first staged in early July in Guangzhou after four years' preparation.
The movie mixes the opera's melodies with modern animated cartoon images. Artist Hong Xiannu dubs the part of the princess.
The movie was first initiated by 76-year-old Hong Xiannu in 2000.
"The motivation of the movie is to present a new-style Cantonese Yueju opera for young people," she said.
The new style has been widely acclaimed by young audiences.
The movie won the China Movie Huabiao Prize in August in Beijing.
"Despite the story, the new style tells us that this folk art form can develop better," an 18-year-old member of the audience, surnamed Wang, said.
One survey carried out by the Guangzhou Bureau of Culture in early February this 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 2,000-3,000 in Guangzhou, according to Ni Huiying, director of the Guangzhou Cantonese Yueju Opera Troupe.
"We hope the new style can interest more young people," said Ni.
Ni said traditional opera should keep pace with modern society.
"People, especially the young, have gradually lost interest in Cantonese Yueju Opera, because they have found new ways to entertain themselves," said Ni.
The festival was organized by the Guangzhou Bureau of Culture, Guangzhou Federation of Literary and Art Circles and Guangzhou Cantonese Opera Promotion Foundations.