Call us fortunate (or unfortunate) that our series fall on the seventh month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The Hungry Ghost Festival is the most important festival or celebration of the year beside the Chinese New Year. Ghosts are free to wander in search for incense. Therefore, family members of the ghosts" would conduct ritual and prayers so that descendants could extend filial piety to their ancestors. MyQueenstown Team has covered one such ritual at Margaret Drive earlier this month. Besides rituals, performances such as getais and hokkien operas will also be organised to provide these ghosts with entertainment. Today, MyQueenstown Team wandered off to Commonwealth Crescent, where we attended a Chinese Skit and Opera and interviewed its cast.
Hokkien Opera Show at Commonwealth Crescent Square
Among the numerous dialects of the Chinese language, Hokkien and Teochew are the two most common forms of dialects. Therefore, it is not uncommon that a Hokkien Opera was staged at the Hungry Ghost Festival and Rituals. Hokkien folk operas is the the only form of traditional drama known to have originated from Taiwa. Using stylised combination of literary and colloquial registers of Taiwanese, it adopted elements of folks songs from Fujian and are based on folk tales of the Hokkien region.
Audiences watching and listening attentively to the Skit and Opera
MyQueenstown Team understands that there is no script in this Hokkien Opera as some of the actors are illiterate. Their team leader gave them an outline before the performance and distribute the characters. Unlike the popular getai shows, Hokkien Opera, according to Mr Lim, is declining. Younger Singaporeans are not willing to learn this form of opera because they do not understand the dialect. The team of performers at this particular opera show had met only for a few times a year during the Hungry Ghost Festival to practise. It is amazing they have delivered a tremendous performance.
Beautiful Costumes used in the skit
Vivid expressions from the actors and actresses
Anna and Dee (Stage Names) are the female lead and male supporting lead (or jester) of this opera respectively. A jester is considered as a villain. Male leads are required to portray chaste and decent disposition while female leads are expected to portray their sentiments and love for their family and children. Both Anna and Dee are Hokkien opera enthusiasts and they have been performing for the past 10 years.
Mr Lim the male lead
In yesterday's performance, yehu 椰胡, or coconut bowed string instrument, was used as a musical accompaniment. It is usually tuned at a higher pitch.
Snippets on the Hokkien Skit
Over at the dinner banquet, rows of Taoist and Buddhist followers were munching happily over a sumptuous 9-course dinner. What was captivating was the familiar yells of the auctioneer, who encouraged bids from the diners for various items that would "bless" the family with good luck and good health in the coming year.
Chefs preparing a 9 course dinner
The Auctioneer Uncle Yelling at the Top of His Lungs!
The visits to these Hungry Ghosts Festivals are enriching for MyQueenstown Team. These customs and traditions have certainly made Queenstown's nightlife colourful and exciting. Do pop by at one of the getais or opera shows one of these days!
Visited a Getai or Opera Show? Tell us at our facebook page now!