By Tsering Youdon
I was 9 years old When I had my first lead role in Tibetan Opera festival with Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts. It wasn’t the success of my debut performance that sparked my interest in Tibetan Opera, but rather the many Tibetan Opera Shows I attended as a young audience with my mother. Although I did not comprehend the full regalia of the art at that time, everything about it was fascinating. With time, I became a Tibetan Opera enthusiast and performer.
Tibetan Opera festival in Dharmsala, India took a great leap in 1993 When TIPA hosted other Tibetan Opera troupes in India to participate in the festival. With the inclusion of other Tibetan Opera Troupes in the Festival, the preservation and promotion of Tibetan Opera kicked off in a large scale. It was wonderful seeing other Tibetan Opera troupes perform for the first time. There was so much we were learning from each other and I was mesmerized hearing 70-80 year old Tibetan Opera masters. It was an exciting beginning and that one great leap took us to where we are today.
On the morning of March 30th 2022, I took the 15:30hour flight and 9 hour train ride to Dharamsala, India from San Francisco USA, to participate in the 25th Tibetan Opera Festival with Chaksampa (Tibetan dance and Opera company) from USA. It is after two decades, I was back on stage to perform in the Tibetan Opera Festival which began on April 6th and lasted till 13th April 2022. During the two full days of rehearsal for the festival it conjured all sorts of emotions inside of me. My colleagues devoured nostalgia and sang their lungs out in practice whereas I stood very nervous of my shortcomings. My reservations stemming from a severe tonsillitis decades ago that damaged my vocal chords.
A day before the commencement of the 25th Tibetan Opera festival, all Eight attending troupes rehearsed together for the opening ceremony. Among the different Opera troupes, some familiar faces are now the elders of the troupe, who despite their slowed gait, weakened knee, and crackling voices, performed with the youngsters to inspire. The youths of the Tibetan Opera Troupe showed great strength, interest and capabilities. Watching them perform together, I was certain this unique culture and tradition of Tibet would not wither.
The week long Tibetan Opera Festival consist of local audiences, Opera enthusiasts, tourists and students from Tibetan Schools. The rhythm at which the audiences enjoyed the Opera had not changed. The audiences broke into tears, laughed at the satire and halted in unison for the entrance of each new character on stage. There are sharing of snacks among audiences and family picnics during the lunch break. I couldn’t help but think of the times my mother brought me to the Opera shows, explained the tradition and story lines with much zeal. I also thought of how she beamed with pride on the day I took on the stage for my debut performance in the Tibetan Opera Festival. This time I didn’t have a lead role to play in this 25th Tibetan Opera Opera Festival but my role in the preservation and promotion of Tibetan Opera remains the greatest part for me to play.
(Views expressed are her own)
The author is a graduate artist of Tibetan Institute of performing Arts, India having studied Tibetan traditional Performing Arts, music and Opera for over 15years. A song writer also, her song titled, Tibetan Drinking song” is one of her most well-known singles. She is currently based in San Francisco, USA.