Development of Cantonese Opera - part three

The complex social environment in which the actors of the Cantonese Opera had found themselves had significant influences on the reform of the Opera itself. Guangzhou was the first city to be opened to foreign trade and as well the base of some new key politicians and reformers such as Kang Youwei and Dr. Sun Yat-sen, both revolutionary at their time. This time of challenging social upheaval inspired the artists to new forms of themes and forms in the again growing of Cantonese Opera. New scripts were written to discuss this new ideologies and as well the social inflictions.

At the same time the introduction of modern drama and the development in opera music accelerated the process of change in Cantonese Opera. The outstanding effort and performance of a few artists led to the effect, that the Cantonese language became the dominant theatrical language used in this kind of opera.

All was going well but economic times weren’t as good. The troupes did a significant change in this period and reduced the casting of roles to be used. Before there had been at last “Ten pillars” which were cut down to “six pillars”  to minimize the cost of the troupes. This new “six pillars” were composed of a principal male role, a principal female role, a supporting male role, a comedian role and last but not least a martial role.

 All this ended with the second World War and the Japanese troops after 20 years when Hong Kong and Guangdong were occupied by Japanese troops. To pacify the people and to create a peaceful atmosphere the Japanese encouraged the Cantonese Opera artists to continue their performances. Censorship playing under Japanese occupation or playing in other parts of China under threat of bombing at this times were the two solutions given.

 This kind of dark age ended in 1945 and the development of the Opera began anew but slightly different in Hong Kong and Guangdong.


Make up process for painted faces