Cantonese opera master returns to his roots in Tracing Origins

SINGAPORE – Cantonese opera master Christopher Choo will return to his roots for his upcoming production, Tracing Origins – The Life And Times Of Cantonese Opera’s Laosheng.

In the show, which runs at the Esplanade Theater Studio from April 22-24, he will spotlight the role of the laosheng (elderly gentleman), which was the lead role until the 1930s when opera scripts were started to evolve to focus more on romance.

The younger wenwusheng (scholar/warrior) and huadan (woman) have since taken over from the laosheng as lead roles.

Choo, 62, is one of the few professional Cantonese opera artists here. He can play a variety of characters such as xusheng (bearded man), chousheng (comic), hualian (painted face) and laodan (elderly woman). But for Tracing Origins, he will be reprising his original laosheng roles.

He also produces and directs the show, which stars local wenwusheng Philip Chan and next-gen huadan May Choong.

In all three portrayals of Choo, the color of his beard will change to reflect the different ages of the characters. A black beard represents a person between the ages of 30 and 50, a gray beard is for characters between the ages of 50 and 70, and a white beard indicates a man over 70.

The three excerpts are staged with a table and two chairs, following the basic framework of a traditional Chinese opera. Different calligraphy and paintings appear as a backdrop in each excerpt.

In the first, Song Jiang Kills Yan Xijiao, Choo incorporates the sipping tune of Peking Opera and uses current events references to add creativity to the show.

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