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Tibetan opera: Heartthrob of Tibetan people
    Date:10-25-2011 Source:CNTV Author:    

The Tibetan people call their folk opera Lhamo, or Ache Lhamo, which literally means "sister goddess". It employs singing and dancing to tell stories that are drawn from Buddhism and Tibetan history.

Founded in the 14th Century, Tibetan opera is still popular on the plateau as the local residents' favorite recreation and a continuity of cultural tradition.

The Lhamo performance is everywhere in Tibet. Performers wear masks and flamboyant costumes, singing, dancing and chanting. It's usual to see Tibetan people gather in a square or cultural center, where they drink butter tea and eat tsampa, a famous Tibetan snack, and spend the whole day by watching Lhamo.

76-year-old Tseten Dorje used to be the lead actor of the provincial Tibetan Opera Troupe. Now he is the adviser of Lhasa's most prestigious Niangre Folk Lhamo Group.

Tseten Dorje first became associated with the group three years ago when one of his friends asked him to give some suggestions at their rehearsals.

Tseten Dorje said, "Tibetan opera calls for skills in singing, dancing, elocution and martial arts. The singing is sonorous and marked by drawls at the end, which is the most difficult part of the art. I found the performers were deficient at singing skills so I decided to stay with the group and help them. I never ask for any payment. I do it only for the development of the art."

Lhamo performance 

In 2008, Tseten Dorje was appraised as the heir of Tibetan Opera's Gyormolung School by the China National Intangible Culture Heritage.

He started his Lhamo class at 8, and first performed one year later. When he was 15, he was chosen for the leading roles in various plays. And now, he has taken the responsibility of tutoring the younger generation of artists and passing down the skills.

Tseten Dorje said, "Tibetan people's life will be so boring without Lhamo. The Tibetan opera to us is like water to fish. My life has been tied with the art and the bond will never break until I die."

"Princess Wencheng" is one of the eight great classical Tibetan operas. And Tseten Dorje is the only Lhamo artist who can perform the whole play. Currently he is busy on rehearsing with his fellow performers, and the play will be staged at the Shoton Festival this summer. 

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