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Eyes on Tibet (April.20)

  • Source : China Tibet Broadcast Station Author : Time : 04/20/2016 Editor : Tenzin Chodron

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    Hello and welcome to Eyes on Tibet, brought to you by China Tibet Broadcasting. I’m your host Xiaoyue in Lhasa. Coming up on today’s show, we’ll continue to talk more about Tibetan opera and Guyin Tibetan Opera Troupe.  

     

    As I introduced last week, Nareib or Guyin Tibetan Opera Troupe is a folk troupe that specialized in performing eight traditional Tibetan operas.  The name of this troupe Guyin means “ancient voice”, which is what the troupe is trying to do——bring the ancient voice back to present audiences. Luosang is zhaxi is the founder of this troupe. He introduces the unique feature of Tibetan opera.  

     

    “Tibetan opera is different from stage plays. To perform Tibetan opera, every actor should be on the stage. When one main actor is singing, other supporting actors will sing backup vocals. For example, when Princess Wencheng comes to the stage, her maids should come after her and sing along. Our troupe’s 26 members are not enough; actually, more than 50 actors on the stage will be more imposing.” 

     

    Luojie, a male actor from Guyin Tibetan opera troupe says he knows how to play all the male characters in the eight traditional Tibetan operas. 

     

    “One actor cannot act two roles on stage since all actors have to be on stage during the Tibetan opera performance. As a male actor, I can sing and dance all the male roles of 8 traditional Tibetan operas; in the same way, female actors should know all the singings and dances of all female roles of 8 traditional Tibetan operas.”  

     

    Last week we talked about the legend of the origin of Tibetan opera. However, some say the origin of Tibetan Opera goes back a millennium to Tibetan ritual dances and early Indian Buddhist drama. It came into being gradually over the centuries.  

     

    In the eighth century, the Tibetan King Chrisong Detsan became a follower of Buddhism. At the inauguration of the Buddhist ceremony, a pantomimic dance show based on the deity worship ritual of the Bon religion (a native religion of Tibet) and Tibetan folk dances were staged. 

     

    During the reign of the fifth Dalai Lama in the 17th century, this performing art was separated from religious rituals and became an independent dramatic form. What started off as pantomime evolved into a structured art of song, dance, chants and narration, accompanied by flamboyant masks. Story lines included the nation's history, ancient legends of heroes and Gods and satires on current events. The tradition was passed down from one generation to the next, developing into Tibetan opera, which was popularized throughout the region.  

     

    As the opera mature, it became increasingly complex in structure, containing many literary strands. The stories depicted are very beautiful. It also has absorbed many local dances and other art forms and there is always a light-hearted humor in it that appeals to audiences. 

     

    Over the centuries, the opera has formed a three-part stage process. 

     

    Part one is called Dun or Wenbadun in Tibetan. It serves as a prologue to the performance, in which Wenba men in blue masks, two Jialu men and several fairies take the stage to perform religious rituals and songs and dances, and introduce the actors and actresses. Also they perform some songs, dances and comical acts designed to draw in the audience and prepare for the performance of the opera.  

     

    Part two is called Xiong in Tibetan. It is the main body of the opera, in which a narrator explains the plot, section by section, as the opera is being performed, episode by episode. In the absence of a realistic setting and props, the narrator's words must conjure up the stage effects in the audience's imagination. Two musicians -- a drummer and a cymbalist -- sit on the side of the stage. An special drumbeat, accompanied by a specific dance step, identifies each character.  

     

    Part three is called Zhaxi in Tibetan, meaning “luck”. It is the epilogue, which refers to the rite for blessing or good augury at the end of the opera. Actors also render songs and dances while accepting donations from the audience.  

     

    Tibetan Opera costumes are very lavish, with rich brocades and a striking variety of masks and animal motifs. The musical score is created entirely by the drum and cymbals that punctuate every movement, and by the singing actors. The rapidly chanted narration alternates with the sung dialogues repeated in the chorus. The dance movements are refined, exaggerated and vigorous. 

     

    The highlight of Tibetan Opera is the mask. Except for the Chamdo Opera and Minyag Opera, masks must be worn in all the other operas.  

     

    Located on the front of the mask is usually a motif, such as the sun or moon. The role of the actor can be identified from the type of mask he or she is wearing. They help highlight the characters of heroes in the operas in a symbolic and exaggerated way.  

     

    Generally, the Tibetan Opera masks are composed of the Obar Mask, formal Mask, Deity Mask and Animal Mask, wore by characters such as fisherman or hunter, king, minister, queen and concubine, rinpoche, lama, demon or monster, deity or god according to different colors and images of the mask. 

     

    Tibetan Opera call for skills in singing, dancing, elocution and the martial arts. Historical pageantry, myth and magic are woven together with earthly humor and scenes from the daily lives of ordinary people. The primitive simplicity and vigor demonstrated in the singing and dancing is effectively reflected in the typical Tibetan landscape backdrops. This is Luojie again, talking about his experience when acting the famous Tibetan King Songzan Ganbo.   

     

    “When I play Songzan Ganbo on stage, I feel immense glorious pride deep in my heart for he was once the king of Tibet and a real hero. Also, I try to show a heroic spirit when I play Songzan Ganbo. I hope that our Tibetan opera troupe will be better and better.”  

     

    As a representative inheritor of the regional-level intangible culture heritage, Losangla guides students concentrating with all his heart and mind on the rehearsals.  

     

    In 2014, Losangla used his small amount of savings to establish the Lhasa Guyin Tibetan Opera Troupe. He says it will be possible to preserve this tradition and teach the new generation orthodox techniques only if I start his own group.  

     

    “I recruited young students from all over Tibet and founded this troupe, Nareib Aje Lhamu. Lhamu means Tibetan Opera. My troupe belongs to all Tibetans instead of some village.” 

     

    The members in this troupe can’t earn much money every year, but they don’t want to leave this big family because of their pursuit of art and true love for Tibetan opera. This is Luojie again.  

     

    “I love Tibetan opera from childhood. If only considering the income, I have other options of jobs better than to be a Tibetan opera actor. ” 

    Luojie, however, has been staying in this troupe for 2 years and doesn’t plan to leave. As the core leader of this folk Tibetan opera troupe, Luosangla often tells his students to learn and inherit traditional Tibetan culture.  

     

    “I have mentioned several times when we had meetings. What we do is not for money. There are other jobs that can earn more money than perform Tibetan opera. The priority of our work is to study our history and culture. ” 

     

    Luosangla currently is producing a new Tibetan Opera titled Tsangyang Gyatso (the 6th Dalai Lama). Hopefully, they will begin to perform the opera in the middle of May this year. 

     

    With that we wrap up this edition of Eyes on Tibet. “Eyes on Tibet” is brought to you every Wednesday and Thursday. More information about our program could be found at our website www.vtibet.com/en/. I’m Xiaoyue in Lhasa. Thanks for listening! Wish you a pleasant weekend…see you next time. 

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