Interview: Harmonlodies Cantonese Opera

It’s really easy to get excited about Chinese Opera. Not only does it delightwith its colourful costumes and idiosyncratic make-up but it fascinates with its unique sound, lyrical accompaniment, graceful nuanced delivery and energetic and irreverent clowns. After being thoroughly entertained by the Harmonlodies Cantonese Opera Studio at their recent performance at the George’s River Council’s Lunar New Year Festival I was very fortunate to have met their President, Sandy So Ping Chan, and have obtained an interview with her. Her Opera Studio is based in the southern suburbs of Sydney. Chinese Opera is a wonderful theatre form that I’m sad to say the general Australian public misses out on seeing because there is a ravine separating those who know and can access it and those who should know just what a theatrical gem they are missing out on and would be just as delighted as I am with it.

All of the photos are of the Harmonlodies Cantonese Opera Studio performing at the George’s River Council’s Lunar New Year Festival earlier this year.

1. How old is the Cantonese Opera? 粤剧有多长时间历史?

• 在明末清初起到今已有三,四百年歷史了。
There have been 3-400 years of history since the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644C.E.) to the present.

2. Has the Cantonese Opera arisen from any particular Province of China? 粤剧是从中国的哪个省份起源的?

• 在廣東廣州佛山珠江三角洲一帶開始,初是以木魚,龍舟粵謳在民間興起,後不斷及收劇種的東西,而發展型成今天之粵劇曲藝。
It started in the Pearl River Delta, Guangdong Province. It started with a wooden knocker from a Dragon Boat and slowly absorbed the other opera’s essence, becoming today’s Canton Opera.

3. How does it differ from the Opera of different regions or cities of China? Are the stories, or music, or costumes or backdrops different? 粤剧和其他中国剧种有什么区别?故事情节不同,音乐还是背景不同?

  • .同其它劇種都是兄弟劇種,互相及收學習慣共同進步,都是祖國的藝術奇葩。

The other genres, they are all brothers, in the same family. They advance each other and learn from each other.

4. Do the stories you tell with your performances originate in any particular mythology or composer and lyricists work? 你们表演的剧情有什么历史起源吗?台词有起源吗?

  • 台詞方面要都根據歷史歷代的人物過往的經歷,其中一段而編寫劇本(曲詞)表達的。

The scripts are usually based on the life of some famous people and historic stories, from the past.

5. I love the physical humour of the clowns. How important are they in full performances? 我 很喜欢粤剧里的丑角,他们在剧中有着多重要的位置?

  • 丑角方面,他們能曾加劇裡的情節氣氛,使劇情豐富,都是很重要的。

It is very important that they can add to the atmosphere of the drama and enrich the story, and make the show funny and attractive to the audience.

6. How long have Harmonlodies Cantonese Opera been together as a group? 你们的剧组成立有多长的历史了?

  • .我們成立在1996年4月17日,也曾參加過農曆新年的活動,慈善活動。例如:中國的華東水災,也得到Council的支持,免費提供場地給我們,當時籌到九千多元,交到紅十字會用來捐款振災。還有昆士蘭水災等等。

We were founded on 17 April, 1996. We participate in the Lunar New Year festivities and charity activities. We have had support from councils who have provided a free stage for us to perform. With our fundraising we have achieved over $9000 which we passed on to the Red Cross as a donation to support the flooded areas in East China and Queensland.

A real treat - St George area's own Harmonodies Cantonese Opera Studio

7. Is performing in Cantonese rather than Mandarin a barrier to a greater Chinese audience? 粤剧在中国国内其他省份的推广是否有障碍?

• .如果其他省是有廣東話的,應該沒有障礙的。
If they understand Cantonese, there are no barriers

8. Mei Lan Fang was a huge success bringing the Beiging Opera to the West in the early 20th Century. Have you considered extending the reach of your talents to the wider Australian Community with the use of English surtitles, like Opera Australia uses when they perform in Italian or French? 梅兰芳在20世纪初推广京剧发挥了很大的作用,你们有没有考虑在澳大利亚用英文字幕推广粤剧,像澳洲还有其他语种的戏剧的推广,如意大利语和法语等。

• 我們每年都會參加全球華人粵劇節的也曾參與法國巴黎的演出,加拿大多倫多的演出,廣西省,剛剛也參加了佛山,湛江的演出歸來。
Every year we attend the World Cantonese Opera Festival in Toronto, Canada and Paris, France. We just came back from Foshan and Zhanjiang, two cities in Guangdong.

I’d like to thank Sandy So Ping Chan, for allowing me to interview her and also her daughter Babor and Liya Lei Christianos for their help in translating backwards and forwards from English to Cantonese and then Cantonese back to English