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From: China Tibet Online 2011-07-05 13:17:00
by: Lily Dong
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Tibetan Opera thrives

Tibetan opera [Photo/CRI]

Tibetan Opera [Photo/CRI]

Tibetan Opera, or Ace Lhamo in Tibetan, is an ancient art form that has developed over centuries. Hailed as "the living fossil of traditional Tibetan culture," it boasts a history of more than 600 years, about 400 years longer than China's national treasure, Peking Opera.

Tibetans have long cherished this important folk art, which has become a source of identity for them. It is said that wherever you find Tibetans, you will find Tibetan Opera.
The Tibetan Opera in Tibet Autonomous Region is the major part of the art of Tibetan Opera. It spread to other Tibethan-inhabited areas in Gansu, Qinghai,Sichuan and Yunnan provices, thus forming the Huangnan Tibetan Opera (Qinghia), Gannan Tibetan Opera (Gansu) and Seda Tibetan Opera (Sichuan), etc. Tibetan Opera is also popular among Tibetan-inhabited areas in India and Bhutan.

The main features of Tibetan Opera are lavish and flamboyant. Over the centuries, the opera has formed a three-part stage process.

In the prelude, known as "Wenbadun," 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.

Next is dubbed as "Xiong": 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 within the audience's imagination. Two musicians -- a drummer and a cymbalist -- sit on the side of the stage. An idiosyncratic drumbeat, accompanied by a specific dance step, identifies each character.

The performance ends with a blessing ritual that features a blessing ceremony and is also an occasion for the audience to present Khada and donations. This part is called "Tashi".

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. Located on the front of the mask is usually a motif, such as the sun or the moon. The actor's role can be identified from the type of mask he or she is wearing. For example, a red mask represents the king; a green, mask the queen; a yellow mask, lamas and deities, and so on. 

[editor : ]
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