As the stern leader of the Sichuan Opera Group, Zhao Li has been fighting a losing battle to save her opera troupe from extinction. Operating out of a run-down theatre that is scheduled for demolition and playing to half-empty houses every night, she tries to save the troupe from being swept away in the tide of modernization. Her “family,” disheartened by the challenges they face, begins to seek new opportunities in order to survive. As Zhao Li continues to struggle, the fantasy world of her operas slowly begin to seep into her real life.
Anchored by a compelling and empathetic performance by lead actress Zhao Xiaoli, herself an opera performer turned actor, Johnny Ma’s second feature is a compassionate and impactful glimpse into urban redevelopment and the annihilation of the old to make way for the new. The motley crew at the heart of To Live To Sing, played by professional opera singers and musicians in fictionalized versions of themselves, bring a touch of realism to the plight that they face in China’s transformation as a growing global economic power.