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Zesty Chinese operas try to keep things fresh
By Xu Wei

Traditional Chinese opera fans will be treated to both classic and original plays in the next few months, according to the latest schedule released by the Shanghai Center of Chinese Operas.

The center assembles major Chinese opera troupes in the city. It provides veteran and young artists a platform to showcase their expertise and creativity.

To attract younger audiences, many troupes nowadays are working on plays with easy-to-understand storylines combined with better stage effects.

From March 11 to 13, Shanghai Yueju Opera Troupe will stage “The Copper Bird Pavilion,” based on a legend from the Three Kingdoms Period (AD 220-280).

The play tells a romantic but tragic love story between Zhen Luo and Cao Zhi, son of a powerful warlord. Cao and Zhen fall in love with each other at first sight, but Zhen later marries Cao’s elder brother Cao Pi.

When Cao Pi becomes emperor of Wei, he regards his little brother a big threat to his throne. He forces Cao Zhi to compose a spontaneous poem within seven footsteps. If Cao can’t do it, he will be punished with death.

With Zhen’s help, Cao Zhi creates a poem describing the various processes of cooking and refining beans. The famous poem, a metaphor for the brothers’ relationship, moves Cao Pi to tears and reminds him of their childhood.

According to writer Huang Yan, the script is designed to cater to the tastes of today’s audience. The costumes and props in the show are exquisite and elegant.

“We have included several scenes to depict the delicate emotions of the characters,” Huang says. “Compared with former Yueju Opera shows, it is more condensed and features more dramatic tension to ensure people care about the destinies of the characters.”

On April 6, Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe will present the light-hearted classic “The Kite Romance.” The story centers around the romance between handsome and talented scholar Han Shixun and beautiful Shujuan, who lives in the neighborhood.

Kites were used to express love in ancient China. Han writes a poem about beauty on a kite and flies it over the girl’s home. But the girl’s ugly sister disguises herself as Shujuan and invites Han to her home. Her appearance and rudeness scare Han and he runs away.

The play includes many plot twists to ensure audience members are left guessing the outcome right to the end.

On May 5, a special concert will feature well-known Chinese opera melodies. The concert debuted last year and received wide acclaim from both critics and spectators.

Musicians from Kunqu Opera, Peking Opera, Huju Opera, Yueju Opera and other theaters will perform classic scores. Modern electric musical elements will also be used. Some episodes will be reinterpreted without instrumental accompaniment.

Officials from the center say they also plan to establish a special band for Chinese operas. The band will be engaged in promoting the charm of Chinese theater at international festivals.

The center also said it will organize free academic lectures and performances in residential communities around Shanghai to make Chinese opera more accessible.

• Yueju Opera “The Copper Bird Pavilion”

Date: March 11-13, 7:15pm

Tickets: 80-380 Yuan

• Kunqu Opera “The Kite Romance”

Date: April 6, 7:15pm

• Concert of traditional Chinese opera scores

Date: May 5, 7:15pm

Venue: Yifu Theater, 701 Fuzhou Rd

Tel: 6322-5294

For detailed performance schedule, check www.shchineseoperas.org.

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