Ti­betan opera of­fers am­a­teur ac­tors ex­tra in­come

China Daily (Canada) - - TIBET - By PALDEN NYIMA in Gyaltse, Ti­bet palden_ny­ima@chi­nadaily. com.cn

Per­formed at 4,020 me­ters above sea level in the Ti­bet au­ton­o­mous re­gion’s Gyaltse county, Gyalt­seTraces is be­lieved to be the world’s high­est live ac­tion opera.

It was first staged in Au­gust 2014, us­ing aid money from the Shanghai mu­nic­i­pal govern­ment, and com­mem­o­rates re­sis­tance to the Bri­tish in­va­sion of Ti­bet in 1904.

This year’s run be­gan re­cently in Gyaltse’s Da­mag Square, which is sur­rounded by the an­cient Gyaltse Cas­tle, Pal­gong Stupa and Norbu Hill.

The opera re­flects the cul­ture of Gyaltse, an im­por­tant grain pro­duc­ing area to the south of Xigaze whose name means “summit of vic­tory” in the Ti­betan lan­guage, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously telling the story of its agri­cul­ture civ­i­liza­tion and Ti­bet’s peace­ful lib­er­a­tion.

More than 300 lo­cal farm­ers and no­mads have been re­cruited to work as ac­tors and ac­tresses in the opera, sup­ple­ment­ing their daily in­come by ap­pear­ing on stage in the evenings.

One such player is Basang Nor­gyal, who said the opera aims to “re­mind the younger gen­er­a­tions to re­mem­ber their true his­tory”.

“It’s my honor to have been play­ing in the opera for three years, it makes life mean­ing­ful and joy­ful, and I be­lieve my con­tin­u­ous par­tic­i­pa­tion will make me have a longer life,” said the 63-year-old, who is paid 100 yuan ($15) for each show he ap­pears in.

Phurbu Butri, a dancer, said she trea­sured the op­por­tu­nity to be in the pro­duc­tion, which pro­vides her fam­ily with an­other source of in­come.

“I con­sider my par­tic­i­pa­tion in the play as a chance to take ex­er­cise, and it makes me feel happy as it is also an amus­ing ac­tiv­ity,” said the 29-year-old, adding that she hoped more tourists would come and watch the opera in fu­ture.

“Not only can they ex­pe­ri­ence unique lo­cal Ti­betan dances, songs, and Ti­betan opera, they can also learn more about Ti­betan cul­ture and his­tory,” she said.

Pe­dron, an­other ac­tress in the opera, said she re­ceived a salary of 3,000 yuan per month for her work with the pro­duc­tion.

“My fam­ily con­di­tion was poor in the past, but since be­com­ing an ac­tress for the opera, I am no longer a bur­den on the govern­ment,” said the 57-year-old.

“It is not only a job, my com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills have also im­proved a lot.”

Han Sheng, a pro­fes­sor at Shanghai The­ater Academy and the opera’s art di­rec­tor, said Ti­bet’s cul­tural re­sources would help at­tract more vis­i­tors to the re­gion, and Gyaltse in par­tic­u­lar.

“With its fas­ci­nat­ing land­scape, har­mo­nious ecol­ogy and rich cul­tural re­sources, Gyaltse is a place with in­ter­est­ing sto­ries,” Han said.

“Our obli­ga­tion is to share these sto­ries and make them known world­wide, to at­tract more peo­ple here, and to turn these re­sources into jobs.”

Of­fi­cials at Gyaltse’s tourism bu­reau said the opera not only high­lights the county’s cul­ture and his­tory, it also pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity for lo­cals to ben­e­fit eco­nom­i­cally.

“The opera demon­strates the county’s unique in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage, such as its an­cient dances, six-stringed gui­tar songs, and the spe­cial fes­ti­vals of Vonkhor and Da­mag,” said Kal­sang Dawa, deputy head of the county’s tourism bu­reau.

“More than 300 lo­cal farm­ers and herds­men have par­tic­i­pated in the opera as play­ers, and they can earn an av­er­age salary of 3,000 yuan per month. It is a big con­tri­bu­tion for the lo­cal res­i­dents to boost their in­come.”

The opera is the first of its kind in Ti­bet, with no equal in any of the re­gion’s 74 coun­ties.

Ac­cord­ing to the tourism bu­reau, Gyaltse re­ceived 84,500 tourists last year and tourism rev­enue hit 29 mil­lion yuan.

Most of per­form­ers in the opera are Ti­betan farm­ers and herders from Gyaltse county. Live ac­tion opera Gyalt­seTraces high­lights Ti­betan cul­ture with its cos­tumes, mu­sic and dances.

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