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Kunqu Opera 'A Dream of Red Mansions' eyeing the young

By Lu Qianwen  (Global Times)

16:22, March 06, 2013

Poster of the Kunqu Opera film A Dream of Red Mansions (Photo:Courtesy of Gong Yingtian)

Since being included in the World Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2001, the 600-year-old Kunqu Opera in China has gained increasing attention both in the country and abroad thanks to wider exposure. Despite this fact, Kunqu is still struggling to reach more audiences today, as are all other traditional Chinese operas.

In recent years, Kunqu operas like The Peony Pavilion, The Peach Blossom Fan and A Dream of Red Mansions have earned warm acclaim when they were staged in theaters. However, given the fact that those who attend theater in China is still limited and under nurtured, relying solely on this form of performance fails to build a wider and a most earnestly needed younger audience.

This is why recent years have seen the increasing birth of film versions of traditional operas, featuring more exquisite production elements such as fancier costumes and sets.

Last Tuesday, the film version of Kunqu Opera A Dream of Red Mansions premiered at Peking University. Though the film was not a first attempt at going from stage to screen, the combination of the most ancient traditional Chinese opera style and the most well-known work of classic Chinese literature was still very eye-catching.

"Film is a universal language across the world. Using it to introduce Kunqu Opera is new, and we believe its influence will be bigger than performances on stage," said Wang Haiping, chief planner of the film.

Some advantages of film

Based on the staged Kunqu Opera version of A Dream of Red Mansions, which was performed by The Northern Kunqu Opera Theatre (NKOT) in 2011, the film version took two years to complete and was much shorter in length. By condensing much of the content, the original 6-hour opera is now a 160-minute film.

"The film shows not only the love between Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu (the common theme of other stage and screen productions), but also the prosperity and decline of the Rong-guo house as well as Jia's personal inspiration and philosophy," said Gong Yingtian, director of the film.

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