Art for the ages

Updated: 2013-04-09 09:55

By Liu Xiangrui (China Daily)

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She avoids contact with the audience members, most of whom are elderly. "I'm clumsy with words. So as not to offend them, I talk less."

Occasionally she is invited to perform at business events or celebrations and the troupe can charge up to five times as much as for a single performance.

Art for the ages

She believes her life has made her grow up quickly and has considered leaving the troupe, if only to get away from the family environment she knows so well, and has been offered the opportunity to perform with bigger troupes.

"I'm eager to venture out and try something different. But my mother is worried that I am too young to be on my own."

Deng says she wants to protect Yan.

"My husband and I have been living in the opera world for decades. We don't know what else we can do, and will just take things as they come. But she is still young, and I hope she can try something better," says Deng, who started her own performing life at 15.

Zhao Gang, who directed a documentary about traveling troupes, says Yan's future choices represent the current state of the once-popular art form.

"Growing up in such an environment, she is both deeply influenced by the traditional art and modern life. Sometimes they conflict," Zhao says.

"From Yan we will see if the young are willing to carry on this traditional art form."

Yan is preparing to study at Sichuan's provincial opera college in September, from which she may graduate to join a State-funded troupe.

"I love the opera. After all, it has been part of my life for the past 10 years," Yan says. "I'll often return to help my mother as a guest performer, and enjoy my moments on the stage."

Li Yu in Sichuan contributed to the story.

Art for the ages

Art for the ages

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