Modern touch for ancient art

08:49, April 08, 2010      

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Yan Qinggu (left) will perform classic "The Goblet of Nine Dragons," while Wu Hsing-kuo (right) will play "King Lear."

Keenly aware of the decline of the art form, a group of enthusiastic Peking Opera performers began thinking seriously about how to integrate traditional Chinese opera with modern theater in 1986.

It was with that sensibility that the Contemporary Legend Theater (CLT) was founded.

Over the past two decades, the theater has staged a number of avant-garde Peking Opera productions, including "The Kingdom of Desire," an adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Macbeth" and "The Lady of Loulan," which is based on Euripides' ancient Greek tragedy "Medea" and Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot."

As a highlight of the monthly series performances of Chinese traditional operas at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center, the theater will bring one of its innovative Peking Opera shows "King Lear" to the local audience on Friday.

Wu Hsing-kuo will play "King Lear," who divides his kingdom among his three daughters so long as they declare publicly how much they love him.

Different from traditional Peking Opera shows, the performance fuses the singing, acting, reciting and acrobatic fighting of traditional Chinese opera with Western canons.

The elegance of the traditional art is retained while it is also incorporates modern dance.

Wu, who was rigorously trained in traditional Chinese Opera is also well versed in modern dance forms.

He is clearly able to interpret the Chinese voice, color, costume and body movements in the contemporary theater.

He plays all the major 10 characters in the performance, from King Lear, his three daughters and servant, to cabinet minister.

"The most challenging part of the show is to depict the delicate emotional changes of so many characters with different Peking Opera singing vocals," Wu adds.

In his eyes, to attract today's audience, producers and actors of traditional theater should always give traditional topics a change of style, a new spirit, new thinking and new attitudes that reflect contemporary society.

The show is just part of Peking Opera artists' efforts to revive this traditional art form.

For the first time, Shanghai Peking Opera House will stage two special comic performances at Yifu Theater on April 16 and 17.

The performances, entitled "The King of Comedy," feature an unprecedented gathering of three generations of Peking Opera comic stars - Sun Zhengyang, Jin Xihua and Yan Qinggu. They will perform classic excerpts such as "The Goblet of Nine Dragons" and "Flower-Drum Play."

Of all the different roles in Peking Opera, the clown seems the most accessible to young audiences, particularly for his humor, acrobatics and funny body language.

The performances also aim to provide a recipe for a stressful and fast-paced modern life.

Meanwhile, the 20th Shanghai Magnolia Stage Performance Awards will honor excellent theatrical performers from China and abroad at Shanghai Theater Academy today.

Launched in 1990, the annual awards cover almost all types of theater, including traditional Chinese opera, dance drama, children's drama and magic.

It has been considered the city's top prize for theatrical excellence and has discovered and honored more than 400 performing talents.

A total of 29 nominees from all over the country will vie for four categories - Best Leading Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best New Talent in a Leading Role and Best New Talent in a Supporting Role.

The Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award will be awarded to acclaimed Cantonese Opera singer Hoong Ceen Leui and Italian magician and quick-change artist Arturo Brachetti.

To commemorate its 20th anniversary, this year's Shanghai Magnolia Stage Performance Awards will also offer a special performance presented by the nominated artists and workshops about the future development of traditional theater.

"We will continue to provide excellent artists a wide platform to exchange and showcase their theatrical skills," says Chen Daming, an official with the organizing committee.

"We also plan to organize a few benefit performances by the winners to promote these age-old art forms to the young generation."

"King Lear"

Date: April 9, 7:15pm

Venue: Shanghai Oriental Art Center, 425 Dingxiang Rd

Tickets: 60-420 yuan

Tel: 021-6854-1234

"The King of Comedy" Peking Opera shows

Date: April 16-17, 7:15pm

Venue: Yifu Theater, 701 Fuzhou Rd

Tickets: 30-380 yuan

Tel: 021-6322-5294

Source: Shanghai Daily


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