Cantonese Opera 粤劇

Even before typing, I’d already felt the embarrassment because I have so little knowledge of the subject I am writing. I don’t know a lot of the vocabulary of  Chinese opera, let alone the differences between operas from different districts. Before The Beatles, I was brought up listening to traditional Cantonese opera. I was able to enjoy them, and was able to sing along with some of them. However, going to theater was not something we could afford when I was young. I have only attended a few times of this kind of performance in my entire life. But I do love their make-up and costumes. I have never had the chance, until now, to take pictures of these people.

One of the traditional way of celebrating Chinese New Year is to enjoy a show of  Chinese opera.  A while ago, I had an opportunity to attend a Cantonese Opera performance. The show was performed to celebrate a music club’s anniversary here in Boston. Since actors and actresses needed to be trained for years to be able to perform, I believe most of these folks, even they didn’t claim to be “professional”,  had received years of formal training in this field. The Chairwoman of the group was so kind to allow me to take pictures anywhere I wanted.  I had taken quite a few of them.  I am posting a few here to share with you and show my respect to these folks who work very hard to preserve the art.

直到 The Beatles 出現前, 我們可以說是聽粵曲長大的。記得當時拿起曲夲, 曲詞前寫着[二王]、 [滚花]、[白欖]等等, 我們就知道怎樣唱。 這可能与古代唱元曲或詞一樣, 只要說出曲牌或詞牌名, 大家都會唱一樣 (我不知是否真的如此, 想當然矣)。 聽粤曲和看粤劇不同, 會聽的只知道歌者唱功如何, 仿何人腔口。 講究一點的連音樂也知道一些, 如掌板是誰等等。 看的話學問就多了, 演員的功架如何, 做手是否上乘, 服裝、佈景是否講究等等。如靚次伯演六國大封相的功架就令老人家津津樂道。小時候因經濟理由很少上劇院。在大陸旅行時看过一次川劇, 印像甚佳。我最喜欢就是那些化粧和服飾。尤其喜欢攝影之後, 一直好渴望有机會拍拍這傳統的藝術。前一陣波士頓廣東曲藝社社慶演出折子戲, 會長溫太太大方地讓我拍照, 得償素願。他們雖說是業餘, 但唱功、做手和行頭皆十分專業。


化粧 Make up


主角 The cast


服裝, 連旁边在採訪的記者先生也看得津津有味。Costume, it draws the full attention of a reporter from World Journal.


佈景 stage


音樂 music


掌板  On drum

Show time!

Show time! 花旦


劇目: 花好月圓 Chinese love story


花好月圓 This intellectual (a gentleman) is played by an actress.


劇目 : 落霞孤霧 For some reasons, the costume styles reflect Ming Dynasty designs rather than Qing Dynasty Designs.


劇目 : 六月飛霜之大審(斗娥寃).                     The whip in his hand indicates that this official (the embroidery pattern on his costume is supposed to reveal his ranking) is riding a horse.


劇目 : 六月飛霜之大審(斗娥寃) Besides of  singing, acting (movement of the body and hands, footworks) is also a very important element of a good performance.


劇目 : 六月飛霜之大審(斗娥寃),                                   The official is demounting, a soldier is taking over the “horse”. The officer dressed in red is holding a sword, this is not just any sword. This is the sword, granted by the emperor, that carries the authority to execute anybody the official considers appropriate,  without seeking approval of the emperor.

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7 Responses to Cantonese Opera 粤劇

  1. Marty says:

    I think these pictures are great because you get a real appreciation for the costumes and people. While they may not be professional, they seem to love being in the opera. I like the pictures of the musicians. What is the amn playing in the picture called “music”?

  2. bluepapillon says:

    I believe it is called Er Hu. The Chinese name is 二胡(Natalie should be able to read them). Somebody called it the Chinese Blues. As the name implies, it is very suitable for playing blues (sad melodies).

  3. Lye says:

    No, it should be Ban Hu 板胡,the ‘face’ is bigger and body of the ‘face’ is thinner compared to Er Hu. It’s scale is higher than Er Hu. Er Hu’s scale is low and sad.

    • bluepapillon says:

      Thank you so much for the info. You are right, the “face” is bigger. To be honest, I don’t even know there is an instrument called Ban Hu. Thanks.

  4. john clifford says:

    I was a member of this group for several years….no joke. and that instrument is called a yehu 椰胡 (yewoo in cantonese) its tuned G-d, lower than an erhu (D-a.)

    • bluepapillon says:

      Wow, a small world. Thank you so much for the info. I remember seeing a young Caucasian guy performing with a Cantonese music group in Quincy’s autumn moon festival a few years back. I was amazed to see him play, he’s on drum (not exactly drums, but you know what I mean}. If you are him, let me know, I have a couple of pictures of him.

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