Pull back the curtain on the enigmatic world of Teochew opera in this unique session by Xperience Singapore, which takes guests behind the scenes to join one of Singapore’s last remaining troupes in preparation for an opera performance. By Pamela Chow
Teochew opera is a fast disappearing trade that few understand and even fewer practise. The art form survives today through second- and third-generation performers, emerging during key religious events such as the Hungry Ghost Festival, as one of Singapore’s last vestiges of tradition.
The Art of Chinese Teochew Opera immerses participants into the backstage world of opera troupes, from their symbolic makeup to thousand-dollar hand-woven costumes.
Our session was held comfortably indoors in a clan association, where we met some of Singapore’s last opera performers – a local family, led by mother Tina Quek.
As they worked on their intricate makeup, university researcher Caroline Chia narrated the heritage of Chinese opera and explained the significance of each performer’s dress and appearance.
The highlight of the experience was donning the elaborately embroidered costumes and headdresses, with the expert help of Quek and her daughter. Wearing the heavy and regal robes gave me great perspective and respect for the performers, who typically perform in the humid heat.
The session ended with a sample skit by the troupe that brought to life the costumes and choreography of traditional opera.
Although opera is normally performed outdoors, this session was conducted comfortably in an air-conditioned room. While listening to Chia’s exposition, participants were urged to step forward for a closer look, interact with the props and quiz the performers or Chia.
Photography is also encouraged, and while quiet and serious, the performers are not camera shy and were happy to engage in conversation about their work.
Transport is provided from the central pick-up point to the clan association, during which the Xperience Travel guide provided a brief background of opera in Singapore.
Pricing for groups of more or less than 10 pax may differ.
A rare and immersive dive into a side of Singapore that’s truly hidden, even to many locals. This rich experience is best suited for guests who are curious about traditional Chinese art forms and culture, as well as those adventurous enough to dress in flamboyant costume.
No. of participants: Around 10
Rates: S$175 (US$129) per person
Tel: (65) 6513 4337
Address: 6 Raffles Boulevard,
03-308 Marina Square, Singapore 039594