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Landmark Yifu Theater turns 90

By Xu Wei (Shanghai Daily)

09:16, April 28, 2012

The 90-year-old Yifu Theater is a kind of Carnegie Hall for traditional Chinese opera. Performing there means, or used to mean, that one has arrived or is a rising star.

"One cannot be famous without performing at the Tianchan (now Yifu) Theater," goes a famous old saying in opera circles.

To celebrate its 90th (almost) anniversary, the theater will present a series of performances and costume and props exhibitions from today through May 8, including Peking, Kunqu, Yueju and Huju operas and ballet.

Both classics and new, experimental works are on the program. Celebrated artists and newcomers will perform, including Fang Yafen, Qian Huili, Ji Zhenhua and Mao Shanyu.

The Shanghai Kunqu Opera House will present the classic "The Leifeng Pagoda," also known as "Madam White Snake." It's the story of a benevolent white snake sorceress who falls in love with a mortal man, who doesn't know she's a serpent. Their love story is a legend and her reptilian aspects are usually passed over.

This version debuted in 2009 and is strictly based on the ancient Kunqu Opera score that often employes romantic rhymed verse. It has been condensed for modern audiences.

Another highlight is the innovative Peking Opera "The Case of Xianglian" by the Tianjin Peking Opera House. It is the famous story of the couple Qin Xianglian and Chen Shimei, the emperor's son-in-law.

Chen abandons his first wife Qin and their children after scoring first in the imperial examination and then marrying a princess in Beijing. He sends his servant to kill Qin and his own children lest they betray his secret, but the servant kills himself after learning the truth.

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