Fading Performance Art (Chinese street opera)

My first memories of Singapore street opera as a kid: a raised wooden stage covered in billowing smoke. The clang and toot of a Chinese band. Painted masks. Outlandish costumes. Dramatic stories of larger-than-life heroes and great feats. The hum and smell of a gas-powered generator. My late granny’s hand in mine as she leads me through the crowds sitting on the grass.

This was my introduction to the noisy, makeshift world of Singapore street opera, better known as wayang.

In the days of yore and lore, Singapore street opera was the most popular source of common entertainment for immigrants to Singapore. Now, Singapore street opera shows are mostly held in August and September, during the Hungry Ghost Festival or for temple celebrations.

Performances take place on makeshift stages on street corners in central locations. Chinatown is the location for many of these traditional performances, which are often held in empty lots around the Smith and Temple Street area. The performances always seem to draw large crowds.

Yet every year fewer shows are held and many professional troupes are disbanding due to lack of support. Catch a Singapore street opera performance if you can, before they disappear altogether. And may your memories of them be as good as mine.



double mirrors




afternoon nap




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3 Responses to “Fading Performance Art (Chinese street opera)”

  1. JO ANN Says:


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