Saturday, February 19, 2005


Jennifer say:

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Taiwanese Opera
Taiwanese opera 歌仔戲 was once performed on nearly every auspicious occasion, including weddings, birthdays, and temple festivals. By tradition, the form is said to have its origin in short songs from Ilan County 宜蘭縣. These songs were purportedly influenced by the narrative music of Taiwan's aboriginal peoples and later evolved into a more powerful musical form. These "Ilan folk songs" are accompanied by an orchestra consisting of the san-hsien 三絃, a three-stringed Chinese banjo; the pipa 琵琶, a four-stringed vertical lute; the tung-hsiao 洞簫, a vertical flute; the sona 哨吶, a trumpet-belled, double-reeded horn; and various percussion instruments, including gongs and drums. Various regional Chinese music theater forms, particularly the pei-kuan and nan-kuan music theater brought to Taiwan by early immigrants from southern China, have clearly influenced Taiwanese opera. This is evident from the colorful makeup and costumes, stage props, and stylized gestures used in Taiwanese opera, which had become a complete musical genre by the 1930s.

The role of Ilan in the development of Taiwanese opera continues to be important today. Several major troupes are based there, including one sponsored by the Ilan County Cultural Center 宜蘭縣立文化中心, which also houses a Taiwanese opera museum. Today, there are nearly 200 troupes performing around the island, but only a few of professional calibre. The best-known is the Ming Hwa Yuan Theater Troupe 明華園歌劇團, established in 1929. Like other Taiwanese opera troupes, it began performing at outdoor stages, often set up in front of temples, but today it also performs at such prestigious venues as the National Theater. The troupe has also toured overseas, performing in Paris and mainland China. Other important compnies include the Ho Lo Taiwanese Opera Troupe 河洛歌仔戲團, the Han Yang Troupe 漢陽歌劇團, and the Lan Yang Troupe 蘭陽戲劇團.

Taiwanese opera's most celebrated actress is Yang Li-hua 楊麗花. With a career spanning over 30 years, she continues to periodically present her own productions. Like many Taiwanese opera actresses, Yang is known for playing only male roles.

Television performances of Taiwanese opera have also been important to its development since the 1960s. Although many TV troupes have a soap opera mentality, with electronic music and pop songs, the Yeh Ching Taiwanese Opera Troupe 葉青歌仔戲團 is one of the few that retained the basic traditional form. Its founder, actress Yeh Ching, has developed an islandwide following through her TV performances and has won numerous awards.

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