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Hakka Opera Festival set to open in Miaoli County

TAIPEI, Taiwan — If you want to know more about the Hakka culture, but you don't speak Hakka, life might easily become complicated. Yet, some people don't know that the 2010 Hakka Opera Festival (戲收冬、謝平安) that opens tomorrow in Miaoli County (苗栗縣) is an unmissable opportunity to discover more about one of Taiwan's most traditional art forms.

Organized by the Council of Hakka Affairs, Executive Yuan (行政院客家委員會), the new arts festival will feature 12 performances in eight counties and cities across the island from Nov. 5 until Dec. 19.

The dramatic Hakka operas, featuring instrumental music, drama, dances, songs and modern special effects, will be staged by six award-winning troupes, including Shin Yong Kuang First Hakka Opera Troupe (新永光戲劇團第一團), JS Hakka Opera Troupe (景勝戲劇團) and Shin Leh Yuan Hakka Opera Troupe (新樂園戲劇團).

According to tradition, the Hakka people would organize banquets and opera performances in front of temples following the winter harvest to thank deities for their divine providence. However, this form of traditional opera, also called Hakka harvest opera, declined in popularity with the advent of television in the 1960s.

The series of opera performances now aims at putting the Hakka tradition back in the spotlight, such as Thanksgiving Day in the United States.

Speaking at a press event held yesterday in Taipei, Minister Huang Yu-Cheng (黃玉振) of the Council for Hakka Affairs, Executive Yuan, remarked: “Hakka opera is part of our tradition of thanking the deities for the harvest and bringing people in the community together once harvesting is finished.”

Asked what Hakka opera means to him, Huang noted that the traditional art form also brings back memories of his youth. Although it is part of Hakkas' traditional lifestyle, the Hakka culture is also well received among audiences of other languages.

“It is not a performance aimed only at the Hakka people,” stressed the minister. In fact, the organizer announced that Chinese subtitles will be provided for Hakkas and non-Hakkas to enjoy.

While traditional cultures have been disappearing slowly in Taiwan, Huang also thanked the various troupes that will perform in the festival for their long-term support to traditional Hakka performing arts performed in the Hakka language.

For more information on the upcoming 2010 Hakka Opera Festival (戲收冬、謝平安) and details of the performances, please visit: www.hakka.gov.tw.

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