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Ngawang Tenzin: half a century of devotion to Tibetan opera

Publish Time: 2018-09-03 Author: From: China Tibet Online

Accompanied by forceful sound of drums, the Tibetan opera called King after a Horse Race was recently performed in the square in front of the Rangtang County government building of Ngawa Prefecture in southwest China's Sichuan Province, with actors' quick and energetic dance steps.

King after a Horse Race tells the story of how Gesar, a hero in Tibetan tales, was crowned king after a horse race victory and how he became a tribal leader.

Offstage, Ngawang Tenzin, the director, frequently gives out instructions to the actors by clanging cymbals or beating a gong.

"King after a Horse Race is my favorite of the 11 pieces I have composed," Ngawang Tenzin said.

"I have specially added and changed more than 20 dance moves for this performance, and the original three-hour performance has been shortened to one hour."

What is the purpose of shortening the length of the performance and changing and adding new movements?

According to Ngawang Tenzin, Tibetan opera performances are often quite long, and it's easy for the actors and audience to get tired. Therefore, Ngawang Tenzin cut it without changing the content of the play or vocal musi. By updating the actors' gestures and hand movements, body movements and poses, controlling the drum beats and rhythm, he is able to gradually shorten the length of the performance.

As a provincial-level inheritor of intangible cultural heritage, Ngawang Tenzin has also earned the honorary title of "Exemplary excavator of the Chinese folk culture Epic of King Gesar".

Ngawang Tenzin's destiny with Tibetan opera has spanned more than half a century: he has been performing on stage since he was 10 years old.

He established an amateur Tibetan opera troupe in his hometown of Namda Township in Rangtang County 30 years ago, recruiting actors from farmers and nomads who were interested in Tibetan opera. Today, the troupe has 45 members, and each year they give at least a dozen performances in different locations.

"In the past, a Tibetan opera troupe would perform an opera over a few days. Now, it only takes us a few hours, and the more they dance, the more energetic they get." As he talks about Tibetan opera, Ngawang Tenzin's words pour out non-stop and he radiates with delight.

Speaking about his future plans, Ngawang Tenzin said: "I want to continue the inheritance of Tibetan opera and rejuvenate ancient Tibetan opera."

Editor: Tommy Tan

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