Did you know there is a Teochew Puppet and Opera House in Penang.. I stumbled across it and decided to visit it out of curiousity, since I am basically a person who loves traveling, and naturally I love learning cultures and traditions – even if I am not quite a stickler or one who strictly follows tradition..
The Teochew Puppet and Opera House not too far from the Jawi House along Armenian Street.. and is located somewhere behind the Georgetown World Heritage Incorporated building and naturally is within the UNESCO World Heritage site.
My mini me and I were there early in the morning..
Did you know the Teochew opera is one of the oldest dramatic art forms and was popular in Penang and it is usually performed at an outdoor pop up stage during the Hungry Ghost Season for Chinese deities and wandering spirits as well as human beings too… I remember being fascinated as a kid… and it still fascinates me sometimes when I come across it.. after all, you will hear high pitched singing, clashing cymbals and so on..
The Teochew opera combines literature, music and drama with colourful elaborate costumes, headgears and dramatic make-up.. and the music ensemble usually consists of gongs, drums, and cymbals, er hu (fiddle) and some traditional musical instruments I cannot remember.
Did you know a versatile actress or actor can actually play many characters from a woman, a man, an old person, all done elaborately through the costume, headgear and facial make-up..
We got to see numerous head gears, costumes there which were beautifully embroidered and beaded. Most of the times, the general public will not be allowed to touch these as they have been painstakingly handmade with embroidery and beadings and pretty costly as well and besides when the embroidery or beads come off, it can be pretty tiresome waiting to get the costume repaired… but here at the Teochew Puppet and Opera House, we had the opportunity to try out some costumes and head gear under supervision. It goes without saying we need to respect the costume and be gentle and careful when trying it on…
My daughter and I had a great time trying out the colourful costumes…
The Teochew Puppet and Opera House might seem pretty vacant at first since the centre of the house if pretty bare except for a little puppet stage, and a few seats and the makeshift opera theatre at the other end, but when you look all around, you will be just so fascinated.. they also have a wide collection of iron rod Teochew puppets and musical instruments you can check out..
The puppets are also pretty elaborate and each of these puppet can take about two to three weeks to complete. The puppets are also hand-crafted from wood, clay and paper, and are quite heavy, at a few kilograms each. Each character has its own costume, richly detailed, just like that of a regular Chinese opera performer. The puppets can come alive by moving the three iron-rods attached to the back and limbs quite similar to the wayang kulit..
My daughter picked up one of the puppets and was shown the steps on how to manipulate the puppet and make it seem alive.. the puppets can dance, walk, bow, sit etc..etc.
The caretaker of the museum was very knowledgeable and friendly and imparted to both my daughter and I all about the Teochew opera, puppets and how the music instruments are played and the role or characteristic of each item…
My daughter and I left the Teochew Puppet and Opera House much more knowledgeable and understanding more on the unique culture that is.. and am so thankful for the opportunity to learn about all this…
Address – 122 Armenian Street, 10200 George Town.
Time：10am-6pm, Close on Monday