Taiwanese opera: 5. Dutiful diva–an interview of Sun Tsui-feng (孫翠鳳)

Posted: 2014 年 05 月 13 日 in Taiwanese opera
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Nowadays, I seem to enjoy a lot of fame and glamour, but I’ve paid a high price for it. Gains and losses go together. When I’m on stage, I’ll be energetic and in high spirits, because it’s my job to play the part well. But once I get off that stage, I often feel exhausted. It’s as though I swap my health and well-being for a robust performance and the applause afterward. I’ve got bruises all over my body, and when the weather’s bad all my muscles ache. But I never regret devoting my life to Taiwanese opera. On the contrary—I feel glad that my acting potential was realized through joining this big family.

Taiwanese opera has made me what I am today, and I hope my example will inspire young people in this and other fields. It’s never too late to do something. You’re never too old. Stick to what you want to do and never give up. If you want to be the best, that means you have to pay a higher price. Even now that I’m in my forties, I still practice my acrobatics. And I’m still learning increasingly difficult movements. I do it because I want to bring something new and different to my performances. That’s particularly important with Taiwanese opera—otherwise our audiences will just trickle away.

Lots of people have to stick with jobs they don’t enjoy, in order to make a living. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to make a successful career out of something I like. Currently I’m involved in a number of TV and movie projects, but once they’re finished I’ll come back to Taiwanese opera and give it my all.

My greatest ambition now is to become a teacher. For a long time, I didn’t even dare think about it, because my school grades were poor, but now I can teach Taiwanese opera from experience. Over the past seven years, I’ve taught occasionally at local schools and community groups. It’s hard, because every student’s different. But despite that, I feel a great sense of achievement when people I’ve taught come back to tell me how learning Taiwanese opera had a positive effect on their lives, both mentally and physically.

Some parents have even said that since their children started attending my classes, they are behaving better. They come back home immediately after school to practice, rather than fool around with their friends. I’m glad to know that Taiwanese opera isn’t just a source of entertainment, it’s also got some relevance to people’s daily lives. That’s our aim, and we should never forget it.

My husband’s involved in setting up an art college and a folk village. I admire his vision and his courage very much—he gets my full support. But he works too hard, even when he’s ill. Sometimes I think it’s only willpower that keeps him going. To me, he’s Superman. It’s his determination and hard work that have made Ming Hwa Yuan so popular.

In this time of drastic social change, we’re faced with much tougher competition than my in-laws had to put up with in the old days. We’ve got to preserve Taiwanese opera here, and we’ve also got to try to boost it into the international arena. People used to look down on opera performers. I want them to receive greater respect from society and some financial security as well. That way, they’ll muster the confidence to pass the torch on to the next generation.

 

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