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Opera lovers to the end

At the age of 76, Gao Xianzun decided amateur Peking Opera needed a revival in Changchun, Jilin Province.

Not wanting to outlive traditional jingju (Peking Opera) which has been in decline for several decades, Gao pulled together other dedicated amateur performers.

Four years later, Gao`s Damalu troupe is still offering free public performances twice a month.

In the 1970s, Changchun had about 20 amateur jingju groups with more than 1,000 regular participants. As the performers aged, however, few younger people filled their ranks and the 170-year-old art form lost many practitioners.

A performer in full flight.

A performer in full flight.

It was Gao`s love for jingju, which he has been performing for more than 60 years, that pushed him to start Damalu which was supported by his family. His eldest daughter emptied two offices in her company`s headquarters to make room for the group.

On the day of a show, Gao arrives at 7 am to tidy up and make a fire when it`s cold. At 9 he starts helping performers apply their makeup and organizes rehearsals. The show begins at 1 pm and lasts for two hours.

Since its founding the troupe has grown from a dozen to more than 50 members. The audience is mainly made up of regulars, mostly senior citizens from surrounding communities.

Yan Zhaojie, 22, the youngest member who is studying jingju at a local college, says performing with Gao`s group has been an invaluable experience. "These senior opera amateurs offer something that I cannot find at college."

Almost every cast member performs multiple roles during the show and they say there is not a temperamental diva among them.

Date:2011-11-30 16:03:39     
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