Chinese opera a dying art
– 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.