Kunqu Opera star Zhang Jingxian, a winner of the Plum Blossom Prize, China’s highest theatrical award, will team up with Yu Manwen,a young talented theater director, to present a creative and nostalgic concert.
The performance is part of the Chinese opera festival at Shanghai Oriental Art Center this month.
Over the past 55 years, Zhang has taken famous roles such as concubine Yang Yuhuan in “The Palace of Eternal Youth,” Du Liniang in “The Peony Pavilion” and Ban Zhao, China’s first-known female imperial historian and philosopher who compiled “Han Shu” (“History of the Han Dynasty”).
Some critics say Zhang has the most beautiful voice in Kunqu Opera.
The concert chronicles and offers 10 episodes of Zhang’s critically acclaimed works that also correspond to her own memories and affection for Shanghai, where Kunqu Opera flourishes. According to director Yu, the concert will be held in a small theater with a capacity for about 300 people, making for a more intimate encounter.
“It will be a blend of traditional arts and modern theater elements,” says the 34-year-old.
“Dramas and video sequences will be presented during intervals to depict the different phases of Zhang’s career.”
The video sequences are from Yu’s documentary about Zhang.
Zhang, who’s now in her 60s, will also collaborate with Infinity, a band from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. They will perform the pop song “When You Are Old” and a part from “The Peony Pavilion.”
Born into a local intellectual family, Zhang began learning Kunqu Opera at the age of 12. The original Kunqu Opera “Ban Zhao” is considered one of Zhang’s best performances. Zhang depicts Ban from the age of 14 to 71, with varied vocal and performing styles.
It has taken Zhang and Yu around one year to prepare for this concert. They say it’s like an emotional letter written to Kunqu Opera fans.