The reports were based on my personal observations and experience. There may be different programmes on other days or nights when charges would also be different.
Chinese Theatre Circle Opera Tea-house (Smith Street)
[ Smith Street is in the heart of Chinatown. There are shops of various kinds along this street and the adjacent streets. At one end of Smith Street is South Bridge Road. Across the road is the Maxwell Food Centre which is now closed for upgrading & renovation. Somewhere mid-way along Smith Street is the Kreta Ayer Food Centre. ]
On Saturday afternoon the charge is $5 per head and tea is served. You can also order other drinks, including beer. The tea comes in a porcelain pot and small porcelain cups. For a complete set which includes tea, tim-sum and a dessert the cost is $12.80.
The hall is rectangular. Though small, it is aesthetic and cheery. There are 2 TV sets in front and one at the back. (Singing is the karaoke-type and is free.) The walls are decorated with opera costumes and masks and Chinese calligraphies. There is a large wooden model of a type of Chinese sailing-boat at the front where the singer's platform is and there are two smaller ones at the back above the entrance. There is even a model of a roadside opera stage!
You can sing solo, with your partner or request your CTC idol to sing with you if the artiste is there. If you can't sing or don't feel like singing you can just sip your tea, watch and listen to the others.
That afternoon the regulars, a group of elderly ladies and a few men, were there. CTC's regular artistes are Hoi Siong, Frances Wong, Loh Siew Ling and Chan Kwai Lin.
There is a girl from Zhezhiang. Her name is Dawn. She mans the SISTIC counter and helps to serve customers.
Oriental Opera Tea-house ( Bukit Pasoh Road )
[ Bukit Pasoh, parallel to the infamous Keong Siak Street, is the site of several clan associations, including Tung On, a few lounges and clubs, a hotel, a restaurant, an opera & singing studio, and even a place of worship! ]
The back of the 'room' was dim as only the spotlights and the lights at the front were on. There were about a dozen tables most of which could seat four people, a few for two. Most of the tables were occupied. The service personnels were friendly and helpful. The first drink was $3.50 but all drinks after that were free. A live six-man orchestra provided the music. .
The 'room' was actually a small rectangular hall. A raised platform in front with a red curtain as the backdrop served as the stage for the singers. The musicians were seated in front of the platform. There walls were quite bare.
Besides the customers, members of the Tung On Opera & Music Troupe or pupils of its opera and music classes also sang.
The session ended at 6.30pm; the night session would start in an hour's time.
It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon spent.