TRADITIONAL Chinese opera fans will be offered a festival of classics, modern twists and experimental pieces at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center from March 13 to April 26.
The eighth annual Master and Famous Play Festival has over the years helped up-and-coming performers from all over the country gain recognition and cultivated a younger audience.
More than 50 celebrated artists of traditional theater are expected to give 26 performances covering eight opera styles — Peking, Kunqu, Yueju, Huju, Huaiju, Chuanju, Huangmei and Qinqiang.
To attract the younger generation, a series of free art lectures will also be held during the festival. Well-known artists Zhang Jingxian, Shi Yihong and Liu Ping will host talks on the history and aesthetics of the art form.
The opening performance on March 13 will be “Dong Xiaowan” by Northern Kunqu Opera Theater from Beijing. It is tragic love tale of a young scholar who falls in love with Dong Xiaowan, who works in a brothel in ancient China. Their story is as much about courage as it is about love.
Shanghai Huju Opera House will offer an interpretation of the classic movie “Waterloo Bridge” and promises stunning visual effects.
Shanghai Yueju Opera House will present “Copper Bird Pavilion,” set during the Three Kingdoms Period (AD 220-280). The story follows the delicate connections between the legendary lady Zhen Luo and the Cao brothers.
The repertoire also includes Zhang Jingxian’s concert of classic Kunqu Opera excerpts in memory of her 55-year career.
Other highlights include Huaiju Opera “The Orphan of Zhao,” modern Qinqiang Opera “The Romance of Xinhua,” Huangmei Opera “Huizhou Woman” and Chuanju Opera “The Dust Settles.”
On April 26, the original Peking Opera performance “Wu Zixu and Shen Baoxu” will close the festival. Set during a period of chaos and war of the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), the opera looks at friends Wu Zixu and Shen Baoxu, who have to stand against each other for the sake of their own country. Forced to make tough choices, their futures end up very differently.
Famous Peking Opera artist Shang Changrong says the festival is a good platform to both preserve traditional operas while also offering modern creations.
“Traditional Chinese operas are charming,” Shang says. “They have evolved in style over the past few decades. So it is important for us to emphasize both tradition and innovation.”