Now that is something you don’t see everyday. Some of you might not have seen or even heard of a Chinese opera but this historic melodrama is one of the oldest school of stage performance amongst all known civilisations, and one boy, albeit continents apart, has performed a resurrection for the ancient art form.
- Witness fabulous black teenager, Tyler Thompson. Having performed at the World Children’s Festival in Washington last month, Tyler received a standing ovation for his role of Justice Bao, a Song Dynasty righteous and impenetrable judge from the well-known hard-boiled classic “Bao Qing Tian”.
Tyler barely speaks Chinese, but his audience including the teachers and professionals were stunned by his rendition.
“Never would anyone expect an Afro-American child to be doing it”, said David Lei, chairman of the Chinese Performing Arts Foundation in San Francisco.
The Chinese, even though astonished, “feel proud of him”, according to his music teacher Sherlyn Chew who unearthed Tyler’s extensive vocal range and recruited him at her Purple Silk music programme where 90pc of the students there are Asians.
Thompson has an ear for pitch and he well mastered the pronunciation of Chinese characters during the programme, noted Chew.
Tyler is a determined child and sets a role model for everyone including the adults as well. While other kids teased at him for being ‘different’, Tyler’s virtues makes him the one to have the last laugh. During his first solo at six, he performed for former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi and on television shows “Good Morning America”.
Now Tyler is also pleaser in China. After the country’s national media televised his gig in San Jose, he and his mother are invited to perform for the land of origin. But they are not likely to meet the Chinese until they have resolved the issues with getting the visas.
It is indeed an achievement for anyone of his demographic and he sends out a clear message to everyone the importance of being open-mindedness in a global village we live in today. Tyler wins a cultural victory.
Getting to know Chinese Opera
Western opera only began in Italy in the late 16th century but Chinese opera dates back to before the completion of the Great Wall. Till date, the dramatic work has prevailed for almost a millennium.
Western opera differs immensely from its oriental counterpart: shrieking falsetto, uproarious percussions, clashing sounds of brass plates and clappers stumble onlookers from the West. But the routine as well as personal visual aesthetics like the costumes and facial expressions are what catches people’s attention.
The way of how narratives in Chinese operas are drawn is pretty similar to how the familiar West End plays are adapted from Shakespearean novels as well as others. From folklore, poetic anecdotes to historical events, some of the most popular Chinese operas are The Three Kingdoms and the Outlaws of the Marsh. Most importantly, Chinese operas feature uniquely attractive props and scene where elaborately illustrated characters sing (in various dialects, depending on region), dance, jester and even perform acrobats and martial arts at some time of the show.
This brings us to face painting and I must say this takes a while for first-timers because there are actually ‘facial colours’ to look out for in order to distinguish the characters. According to west-meet-east.com, red represents the courageous and the loyal, black the impulsiveness, blue the cruelness, white the wickedness and lastly, ‘white nose’ the joviality.
Watch Tyler Thompson’s story