Last year, veteran Beijing opera singer Tai Chi-hsia (戴綺霞) set a record when she performed in the classic show The Drunken Concubine at the age of 94.
With more than 80 years of experience in the traditional stage art, Tai — now 95 — is one of Taiwan’s most renowned operatic performers and she has continued to be at the top of her game by practicing her skills every day for 30 minutes while also devoting time to teach the ancient theatrical skills to younger performers.
“Beijing opera is my life-long passion and we must pass on the traditional arts to future generations … I plan to continue performing Beijing opera and sing until I am 100 years old,” she said.
Her masterful skills and dedication to promoting the traditional arts have now won her recognition from the Taipei City Government.
Yesterday the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs presented the long-time performer, alongside four other traditional arts performers, with awards for their achievements in the fields of traditional art including hand puppetry, Taiwanese lion dance and beikuan (北管) music.
Another Beijing opera master who received an award was 67-year-old Tsao Fu-yung (曹復永) who was one of the first performers of the art form to be born and trained in Taiwan and is a key figure in the modernization of Beijing opera.
Tsao plays the well-known xiaosheng (小生, the leading character in traditional opera) or kunqu (崑曲) in Taiwanese kun opera and helped to successfully combine elements from Beijing opera with Taiwanese opera. Later on in his career he began to direct Taiwanese opera shows, creating more possibilities for traditional arts in the country.
“I always tell my Taiwanese and Beijing opera students that they must be persistent and master traditional arts, one must never be content and always strive to be the best,” he said.
Chu Ching-song (朱清松), a practitioner of bei-kuan music and renowned Taiwanese puppet theater musician Chang Chin-tu (張金土) and Wu Bo-xun (吳伯勳), leader of the Golden Lion Dance Group in Dalongtong, also received awards for their contribution to the arts.
An exhibition on the works of the five masters is being held at the Ximen Red House from 11am to 9pm until June 10 and the winners will attend to share their experience with the public during the exhibition.