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Holo Taiwanese Opera Troupe

  • Date:2022-07-22
Holo Taiwanese Opera Troupe

Chinese Name: 河洛歌子戲團

Year of Establishment: 1984

Location: Taipei City, Taiwan

Did You Know?

Since its establishment, the Holo Taiwanese Opera Troupe has been committed to promoting Taiwanese opera (also known as koa-a-hi). Driven by a dedication to respecting tradition while boldly innovating, the troupe has been at the leading edge of the evolution of Taiwanese opera, creating and staging some 50 classic shows covering a wide variety of subjects and styles. The troupe has also boldly explored different performance styles, winning over audiences and earning substantial praise from experts and scholars.

In 1944, Liu Chung-yuan (劉鐘元), the would-be founder of the Holo Taiwanese Opera Troupe, launched the first radio broadcast Taiwanese opera performance, sparking an upsurge in such shows. In 1958, the Nine Dragons Taiwanese Opera Troupe (九龍歌劇團)—the predecessor of the Holo Taiwanese Opera Troupe—was formed under Ming Pen Broadcasting Company. In 1966, the Liantong Taiwanese Opera Troupe (聯通歌仔劇團), a joint troupe, made its first foray onto television, launching a trend for televised Taiwanese opera. In 1977, the Kuomintang government launched the “Speak Mandarin” movement with the goal of suppressing other languages, including Taiwanese, leading to the disbandment of the troupe.

After laying low for a while, in 1984 Liu Chung-yuan reemerged to establish Holo Co., Ltd. Four years later, he began producing Taiwanese operas for television station CTS, such as “Han Gong Yuan (漢宮怨)," "Emperor Zhengde Travels South (正德皇帝遊江南)," and "The Four Scholars of the South (江南四才子)." That same year, he won his first Golden Bell Award for "Spring and Autumn of the Han Dynasty (大漢春秋)." In 1990, the troupe proposed the concept of "refined Taiwanese opera," blazing a new trail in this traditional field. In 1992, Holo Co., Ltd., changed its name to Holo Cultural Enterprises Co., Ltd., later registering as Holo Koa-a-Hi Theatre Troupe in 1993 and then as Holo Taiwanese Opera Troupe in 1996.

The guiding concept behind Liu’s operatic creations was combining a respect for tradition with courage in innovation, and his staunchly upstanding personality and insistence on producing the finest shows profoundly influenced the style of Holo Taiwanese Opera Troupe. The troupe's mission statement is thus: "To produce and perform works rooted in an innovative spirit of tradition that incorporate modern values and creative performance, expanding the scope of contemporary refined Taiwanese opera." In 2019, Liu Chung-yuan passed away, with Chiu Chin-hua (邱錦華) taking over as the leader of the troupe. National treasure Wang Jin-ying (王金櫻) and well-known playwright Chen Yung-ming (陳永明) were invited to serve as artistic directors, while the president of Tainan Municipal Hospital Tsai Liang-miin(蔡良敏) became business consultant.

In addition to producing one or two stage shows each year, Holo Taiwanese Opera Troupe also produces TV works to make up for the decline of traditional opera and the reduction of performance opportunities. Their televised works continue to stick to the troupe’s long-held commitment to making exquisite operas, even constructing mock stage sets in the studio. The troupe's TV operas have won seven Golden Bell Awards in the Traditional Opera category so far.

The troupe’s plays have included shows brought over from China, cross-cultural adaptations, Taiwanese consciousness subjects, and adaptations of folk stories. They have produced many high-quality operas, from political satires to palace dramas, local stories to insights into human nature, and even religious dramas. They’ve also produced smaller-scale shows to meet modern shifts in the environment, and even branched out into romantic dramas. Overall, they have demonstrated a wide range of creative themes and forms, all showcasing their courage to explore different performance styles. In addition to scripts, Holo Taiwanese Opera Troupe has also placed emphasis on the physical and vocal aspects of performance that have always been vital parts of koa-a-hi opera. Taiwanese opera is particularly known for its singing, so the troupe’s innovative approaches to music and vocal have been particularly noteworthy.

In addition to performing in cultural and artistic activities organized by the government, outdoor shows, and folk and religious celebration performances, Holo Taiwanese Opera Troupe has also traveled overseas, putting on shows in the United States, Brazil, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and elsewhere on numerous occasions. The development of Holo Taiwanese Opera Troupe itself highlights the evolution that Taiwanese opera has undergone since the 1960s, paralleling the changes in Taiwan’s social, political, economic, and cultural situation. As a result, Holo Taiwanese Opera Troupe has become one of the most iconic troupes in the form in Taiwan.

(Photo courtesy of Holo Taiwanese Opera Troupe)