Beloved story of cursed lovers returns in “Panggung Rakyat” virtual series

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The Panggung Rakyat series, presented by Cultural Economy Development Agency (Cendana) with the support of DBKL City Council, truly takes the place of Malaysians in terms of traditional arts and culture. Pandemic restrictions forced this “live in KL” series to go virtual, and last month’s first Panggung Rakyat show saw Kedah Mek Mulung theatrical drama, directed by Zamzuriah Zahari, attracting an enthusiastic online audience.

The next stop in the Panggung Rakyat series is a virtual tour of Penang for an evergreen performance of the Puppet and opera by Teochewthe archives of.

In 2016, the famous Shantou, Chinese opera performer, Liu Xiaoli, performed in Teochew Puppet and Opera House’s Butterfly lover: first meeting in PenangPac, with fourth generation Chinese Traditional Opera practitioner Goh Hooi Ling. Known professionally as Ling Goh, she established the Teochew Puppet and Opera House in George Town in 2014.

So if you missed the sold-out PenangPac show back then, or just want to relive the story of those cursed lovers, you’re in luck.

On Saturday (September 11), this archival performance will be presented online via Cendana’s Facebook page. here at 8:30 p.m.

Butterfly lover, often known as “Chinese Romeo and Juliet”, is a tragic love story of a young woman who disguises herself as a man to continue her education. She ends up falling in love with another student and has to get creative in her attempts to cement the relationship with him. But theirs is a romance that cannot be, as she will later become engaged to another and her heart breaks when he hears the news.

This Teochew Puppet and Opera House show stars Liu as Zhu Yingtai and Goh as Liang Shanbo.

Teochew Puppet and the director and performer of the Opera Goh repainting opera props last December. She now runs online courses to introduce the world of Chinese opera to culture enthusiasts. Photo: The Star / Chan Boon Kai

“It’s a legendary tale, an unforgettable love story from China. It delivers a message of true love and how it always prevails, even in the face of adversity and death. It’s a spectacle that everyone should be watching, ”said Lim Chai Lin, manager of Teochew Puppet and Opera House.

In these times of pandemic, Lim adds that the Panggung Rakyat initiative now allows people to enjoy the spectacle in the comfort and safety of their own homes.

“We hope this will remind people of the beautiful story of Butterfly lover, and also the beauty of the Teochew opera, ”she adds.

Goh, 40, who is a true blue child of Chinese opera, followed in her mother’s footsteps (Toh Ai Hwa) in the world of traditional Chinese arts and practically grew up behind the scenes of Chinese opera performances in all the countries.

Despite pandemic restrictions ending live Chinese opera performances, Goh chooses to remain optimistic. But she admits she failed to welcome visitors to the Teochew Puppet and Opera House, and hopes it can reopen soon.

She also remembers the pre-pandemic days when her artist group put on around 180 performances a year, in temples for celebrations and festivals or local events and performances in Kuala Lumpur.

A file of a puppet performance at the Teochew Puppet and Opera House in George Town. A file of a puppet performance at the Teochew Puppet and Opera House in George Town.

To move forward in a sustainable way, Goh mentions that she plans to work with her group in a smaller setting.

“We had a couple of temple shows this year, but just private for the gods and our performances were cut short. We usually play for four hours, but they wanted it to be only one hour.

“When we suggested playing by video, they told us they could just use old recorded videos instead,” she says.

Goh’s group of 10 artists consists of his brother, his mother, a few relatives and family friends. Many depend solely on income from opera performances. Now, she reveals that most of them have worked as waiters and insurance agents.

For her, the Teochew Puppet and Opera House will have to adapt and will be able to welcome visitors – from near or far – online.

Goh has embraced the virtual world by offering online courses where she conducts classes in various Teochew opera skills, from vocalization and movement to drums and puppets.

Butterfly lover: first meeting is a timely reminder of the magic to be found when this resilient artist lights up the stage.

This episode of the Panggung Rakyat series will last 35 minutes. The next day (September 12), a documentary on the opera Teochew will be presented on the same platform.


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