Chinese opera during a festival in Macau

Categories photo essay

It was a festival of sorts at the A Ma Temple in Macau, the oldest Taoist temple in the island, built in 1488 and dedicated to the goddess Matsu, patron of fishermen and seafarers. The area was festive with Portuguese influenced dances as locals were dressed in traditional Portuguese wear at the open area outside the walls. But it was the huge structure of tarp and bamboo that caught my attention, several meters from the temple entrance and was delighted to know that it was a theater for Chinese opera.

I haven’t actually seen one and this was a great opportunity to photograph and watch, even portions of the play. So we went inside, and was fortunately given access backstage where the meat of the action really was. It was chaotic, with costumes and boxes and stuff scattered around. Makeup at one table, colorful dresses hanging above. Actors were busy preparing, putting on their costumes or makeup, some were chatting lively while another was reading her lines. There were moment of silences in one room, boisterous laughter at another. But when the curtain started to rise and the music drifted from the stage, whispers and tempered calls, hurried paces and hush enveloped the backstage. The actors were ready. We transferred to the audience area and for a brief moment, enjoyed the unfolding color, ancient songs and gestures on stage.

The temporary theater, built infront of the A-Ma Temple is made of bamboo and covered with plastic
The temporary theater, built infront of the A-Ma Temple is made of bamboo and covered with plastic
A Chinese god and actors backstage
A Chinese god and actors backstage
Waiting for the call time
Waiting for the call time
Reading through the script
Reading through the script
Donning on the costume
Donning on the costume
The backstage dressing room
The backstage dressing room
FInalizing his costume
Finalizing his costume
One of the actors in full makeup
One of the actors in full makeup
An actress reading her lines while a performance is going on stage
An actress reading her lines while a performance is going on stage
Chinese opera performance
Chinese opera performance
Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications.

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces.

I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

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