It's the seventh lunar month, the hungry ghost festival is in full force in my neighborhood. Taoist tent temples are up all over the place. The ubiquitous smell of burning paper and incense. Across the street from our apartment is a makeshift wooden stage decorated with silk hangings and colorful hand-painted backdrops. I grab my camera and walk towards the stage. Through the curtains I catch a glimpse of a performer applying makeup. First thought unfortunately is Kiss Alive II. But my curiosity is piqued. I spot a wooden ladder at the rear of the stage that leads up to the dressing area. I climb the ladder not sure if I'm welcome. A seventy-year-old shirtless Chinese man greets me. Or blocks me. Not sure. Verbal communication is a problem. I don't speak Mandarin, he doesn't speak English. No matter. He notices my camera and waves me in to the world of Chinese street opera, a form of drama and musical theater, mixed with a bit of martial arts. The performances are about three hours long and play a ceremonial role as offerings to deities during temple celebrations and as a show for the spirits lucky enough to be released from the underworld. I fumble around backstage, trying to introduce myself and explain why I'm there. It’s awkward. So I hide behind my camera and start taking pictures.
from Chinese Street Opera, photos by Julian Goldberger
from Chinese Street Opera, photos by Julian Goldberger
from Chinese Street Opera, photos by Julian Goldberger
from Chinese Street Opera, photos by Julian Goldberger
from Chinese Street Opera, photos by Julian Goldberger
from Chinese Street Opera, photos by Julian Goldberger
Chinese Street: A dispatch from Singapore was published in the 2012 edition of The Labletter.

©2009-2017 Labletter LLC. All rights for individual pieces reserved by contributing writers and artists.