We use song-dance theatre to refer to the traditional/indigenous theatre in China (that has often been referred to as “Chinese opera”), because there is indeed the performing genre “opera” in the country. The emergence of opera in China was inspired by the introduction of Western opera during the New Culture Movement (1916-1920s). Its musical composition typically follows Western musical structure and harmonic principles while the melodies are strongly influenced by traditional theatre and folk music.
Chinese composers started working on operas as early as the 1920s, among the first pieces were children’s song and dance dramas including Sparrows and Children (Maque yu xiaohai) and others composed by Li Jinhui (1891-1967).
Chinese opera houses also produce Western operatic repertoire.