The Decline of Cantonese Opera in Singapore

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Singapore, being a well-known cosmopolitan city, has many of its cultural roots coming from all over the world. Ever since the first record of Singapore’s’ population structure, the Chinese have dominated in racial concentration, now with a staggering 74.2% in 2013 . Through the course of history, these Chinese migrants have brought different cultural and religious norms, food preferences and conversing language to the little red dot from their various provinces. This essay will focus mainly on the entertainment pastime, Cantonese Opera; on how the Singapore government unintentionally had a hand in the decline of amateur Cantonese opera troupes, with specific examples cited from Sing Wah Musical and Dramatic Association, and how it will not make a come back like how it was in the 1950s despite recent efforts.

Generally accepted as being brought to Singapore by the people from Southern China, it gained a lot of popularity throughout the 1800s. Despite waning interest during the Japanese occupation where social, economical and political unrest was rampant, there was a sudden surge in amateur Cantonese opera associations in Singapore such as the famous Sing Wah Muscial and Dramatic Association (SWMDA) that opened its doors in 1946. Just like the SWMDA which headquarters was located on Sago Street, many of these associations opened in the vicinity of Smith, Mosque and Temple Street, where it was a common place for the Cantonese the gather.

Cantonese Opera performed by amateur troupes from the various associations used to be a luxury for the Cantonese in Singapore because of the limited amount of entertainment available at that time. People had to b...

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...y, it is unlikely that it will ever return to its’ former glory.

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By Tong Soon Lee
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