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Peking Opera seeks younger audience


08:12, February 06, 2013

Key Words: Peking Opera; opera; culture
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Peking Opera fans in Shanghai had the chance to see one of China's most famous Peking Opera performances last weekend at the Shanghai Grand Theater. "The Dragon and the Pheonix," also known as "Longfeng Chengxiang" featured more than 20 noted Peking Opera artists.

The play was adapted from one section of the famous Chinese novel "The Romance of the Three Kingdoms." It tells the story of a political marriage between warlord Liu Bei and the sister of warlord Sun Quan, who occupied different lands during the Three Kingdoms era nearly 1,800 years ago. Sun lures Liu to his own city and marries his sister to Liu in order to trick him and win his land. But Liu counterattacks, and Sun loses both his own land and his sister.

Audience member Chen Ying said, "I am a Beijing native, and I am a Peking Opera fan. Now I work and live in Shanghai, and I don't want to miss any good Peking Opera shows in town. I have seen several versions of the play, but this one is the best."

Audience member Shen Mingming said, "I used to watch Peking Opera shows on TV with my grandparents at home. This is my first time watching Peking Opera at the theater. It's great. The play is easy to understand. I am looking forward to more shows."

The show featured more than 20 noted Peking Opera artists from Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai. The artists say they spent more than two months preparing for the performance. And the new show has cut more than 30 minutes of narration to make it move faster.

Peking Opera artist Zhu Qiang said, "It is a big production. Many of the minor roles are also acted by famous artists. "Longfeng Chengxiang" is good for its festive atmosphere. It has many characters, and they include the four main roles of Peking Opera, the male, female, painted face and clown. It really shows the charm of Peking Opera."

China's four leading Peking Opera companies, The National Peking Opera Company and the Peking Opera Houses of Shanghai, Beijing, and Tianjin now put on more than 300 performances a year around the country. One manager says nearly 90 percent of their shows were sold out last year. But more than half the audience is over 50 years old.

Reporter: "Peking Opera is one of China's iconic art forms. National Cultural authorities say they will continue to bring Peking Opera artists from around the country together to perform the best plays. And insiders say they are looking at different ways of attracting more young people to see the performances."

Song Guanlin, president of China National Peking Opera Company, said, "China has started a project to film famous Peking Opera shows. In the next three years, we plan to make ten Peking Opera performances for the screen. We will stick to the original vision, but also try to make it easier to understand."

Those ten shows include "Farewell My Concubine," or "Bawang Bieji," which played here last Thursday. The traditional Chinese art form is also trying to attract more foreign spectators. Back in 2006, the Shanghai Peking Opera Company adapted Shakespeare's Hamlet as its first attempt to make it easier for foreigners to understand the stories. Since then, it has produced eight such shows, including "Romeo and Juliet," "Macbeth," and "Turandot." The Shanghai Company has performed those shows in more than 20 countries.

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