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Audio: Chinatown taps its youth for Cantonese Opera talents

7 December 2008 No Comment

By Guo Shipeng

Justin (left) and Terilyn (right) with their mother Jamie (center) at the Red Bean.

Justin (right) and Terilyn (left) with their mother Jamie (center) at the Red Bean. Jamie also sings Cantonese Opera.

Cantonese Opera is probably the most common subtype of Chinese opera in the United States.  In the Bay Area, it is popular among first-generation Chinese immigrants, people at least in their 40s, if not older. But in recent years the Red Bean Cantonese Opera House in Oakland’s Chinatown has been trying to introduce the traditional art to the community’s American-born youth. 

Its youth troupe has trained dozens of “little Red Beans” so far, who have performed in its annual full productions in the summer. 

It is no small achievement and requires hard work and devotion, considering the fact that even in China, most teenagers would find traditional Chinese opera boring as there are plenty of pop culture offerings on TV and the Internet. 

Eighteen-year-old Justin Ma is a freshman at UC Santa Cruz. He started learning Cantonese Opera at the Red Bean with his sixteen-year-old sister Terilyn in 2005.

Click the play button to listen to their stories.


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