Practitioners adapt old operas to fit modern lifestyles, tastes

Updated: 2014-11-21 15:23

By Phuntsog Tashi and Palden Nyima in Lhasa(China Daily USA)

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Practitioners adapt old operas to fit modern lifestyles, tastes

An artist dances during a Tibetan opera performace in Lhasa's countryside, Tibetan autonomous region. Jiao Guo / Xinhua

Having grown up in a village with a long tradition of singing and dancing, Palden Wangchuk became interested in Tibetan opera because his mother was an avid fan.

He spent five years studying Tibetan music at the Tibet University, where he apprenticed with Tsering Phuntsog - a recognized master of Tibetan music. Thanks to his master, Palden Wangchuk became one of a dwindling number of Tibetans who can sing garlu, a Tibetan court music that was performed during grand occasions in the palace in the past but is on the verge of extinction.

After he was recommended to Tibet TV by his teacher, he was asked to give a performance of garlu for a televised New Year's party years ago.

His pregnant wife was close to her due at the time, and he spent hours each day practicing while visiting her in the hospital.

"I had never sung it before but I was glad that I achieved it," Palden said.

Palden Wangchuk said garlu is difficult to sing because it requires a unique singing style, confidence and a true understanding of its original environment.

"One has to feel as if singing in a palace where the king, other high officials, ministers and very important guests are listening, or as if it is a national-level grand ceremony," he said.

"There are very few people today who can still sing garlu well," said Phuntsok, one of Palden Wangchuk's apprentices, who also performs with the opera troupe. "He is a diligent man and he has a true passion for what he does."

In 2013, Palden Wangchuk became the first person in the Tibet autonomous region to win a Chinese Drama Plum Blossom Award.

"It is not only my personal glory but a milestone in the history of Tibetan opera," he said, adding that he will continue to research and promote the art form, and will try to be a good example for the young generation.