Chi­nese opera a dy­ing art

The Citizen (KZN) - - World - Bangkok

– An an­cient world of swords, war­riors and folk­lore roared to life on the dark­ened street, of­fer­ing a mo­men­tary es­cape from the mod­ern-day bus­tle of Bangkok.

On stage, the Sai Bo Hong Chi­nese opera troupe acted out dra­matic tales cen­tred around themes of loy­alty, hon­esty and fam­ily, to the sound of clash­ing cym­bals and flutes.

For cen­turies, troupes like this have per­formed through­out Thai­land, where 14% of the pop­u­la­tion are eth­nic Chi­nese.

But the num­ber of shows has dwin­dled in the era of smart­phones, cin­e­mas and Net­flix, a van­ish­ing art in a city of high-rises and mega-malls.

“Chi­nese opera in Thai­land has seen a sharp drop in terms of both au­di­ence at­ten­dance and per­for­mances,” said one of the cos­tume de­sign­ers.

When the Thai troupe plays up­coun­try mostly el­derly eth­nic Chi­nese come to see them, while in Bangkok it’s a mix of tourists and lo­cal res­i­dents.

Sai Bo Hong has been around for decades and like other troupes nor­mally plays for-hire gigs.

On Satur­day they took part in a fes­ti­val cel­e­brat­ing for­mer King Taksin on the western bank of the Chao Phraya river.

Taksin ruled in the late 18th cen­tury and was be­lieved to have been of Chi­nese-Thai her­itage.

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