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Opera living fossil of traditional Tibetan culture

08-08-2013 21:46 BJT Special Report: Inside Tibet |

This ancient art of Tibetan Opera has developed over centuries. Considered as “the living fossil of traditional Tibetan culture”, it is still a part of local people’s lives.

Unor Chompa, a legend of “White Mask Opera” in Nyimu County, is 77 years old.

He is the only person who can sing and dance this particular opera. Therefore, different towns and artistic groups would be honored to invite him as master to teach and share his talent. For Chompa, learning and teaching has multiple meanings.

Unor Chompa, Tibetan opera master, said, “I can’t let the history vanish and be forgotten. I must pass on this grand performance and try to motivate the youth to study with me.”

Chompa became the head of Nyimu Opera Group when he was 65. Normally, an elderly person would be enjoying his retired life without any such obligations. However, he couldn’t let the young students down, especially when he found that they were really good at it.

Chompa said, “I would love to pass down my skills to the kids, because I know that they are really into the opera and working very hard.”

These boys and girls are in their senior high-school years. They work in this folklore park, offering the local white mask opera show to tourists.

After finishing junior high school, most of their friends left home to work in different places in order to make more money for their families.

Those who had the chance to get picked to study the opera were quite lucky.

Sherab, Tibetan opera student, said, “I have only studied it for one month, and it will take me at least 3 years to reach master’s level. I have many friends who are desperate to learn the Opera but they have to fight for their lives.”

Phunchung is also an opera student, but his daily job is still farming. He learns the opera and sings while working.

Chompa likes to stop at friends’ houses when he has spare time. The host offers barley wine to guests with a little butter on the cup to show respect.

When the mood gets animated, they sing some parts of the Tibetan opera to toast to friendship and to a good harvest year.

It’s hard to define the cultural and spiritual importance of “the Tibetan Opera” to the local people.

Chompa said if he were invited again to the Opera Show at Norbulingka during the Shoton Festival, it would be the greatest honor for him.

Currently, 14 of his students were chosen to participate in the grand show in Lhasa. And, Chompa has decided to teach his son, who is already a good drummer, how to sing and dance.

Editor:James |Source:

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