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Bringing the tune of Kunqu Opera to the world

(China Daily)

14:40, November 23, 2012

Kenneth Hsien-yung Pai (center) thanks the audience with two leading actors of The Jade Hairpin.(Photo by Hsu Pei hung)

Chinese-American writer Kenneth Hsien-yung Pai is better known for his work promoting Kunqu Opera than for his writing these days.

It is not surprising because he has devoted most of his time to Kunqu Opera since he began to work with the Suzhou Kunqu Opera Theater to produce the "youth version" of Peony Pavilion in 2003.

The production has staged more than 200 performances in the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, the United States, the United Kingdom and Greece. With a new cast, set, costumes and lighting design, the production has become so popular that Pai's name has become synonymous with Peony Pavilion.

Pai says now he wants to spend more time on literature.

In May, Guangxi Normal University Press published Pai's biography of his father, The Figure of General Bai Chongxi. His father was a famous Kuomintang general.

"I will get back more to writing. I'm glad that I have started a new craze for the old art of Kunqu Opera, but I'm a little worn out," the 75-year-old Pai says. "I hope more people will engage in the work of promoting Kunqu Opera."

Pai finds most satisfaction when young Chinese, especially college students, are drawn to the traditional music genre.

About half of the performances of the youth version of Peony Pavilion were held in universities, mostly the top universities in China. Pai is especially impressed by the performances at the University of Science and Technology of China, where students majoring in science packed even the aisles of the hall to appreciate Kunqu Opera.

"We went to many places where Kunqu Opera has never been performed. The popularity of Peony Pavilion has proven that Kunqu Opera remains charming in the 21st century," he says.

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