Whither the nationalistic resonance and artistic accomplishment of politically freighted art, such as “national opera,” when notions of the nation and domestic politics are radically in flux? How, moreover, might such societal shifts affect ensembles, individual performers, and their audiences? These questions provide the main impetus for Nancy Guy's intriguing and enjoyable book on the rise and fall of Peking opera as the state-promoted form of “national opera” in Taiwan.

From its initial performance, likely in 1891 when a Qing official engaged a Shanghai troupe, Peking opera in Taiwan has been intimately linked with the island's mainland Chinese overlords and Chinese Nationalist politics. During the period of Japanese rule, this identification made Peking opera a popular symbol of Chinese identity, and professional mainland and amateur Taiwanese opera companies played to large audiences of elites and common people alike. The Japanese colonial government supported performances as a concession to local sensibilities....

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