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Scheming concubines in new Yueju Opera

(Shanghai Daily)

08:54, July 26, 2013

A popular online novel and TV series about imperial concubines competing for the emperor's affection will be turned into a four-hour Yueju Opera stage production.

It's the latest effort to use a fresh story - about jealous women - to appeal to young people who are not keen on traditional opera and prefer films, karaoke and clubbing.

The Yueju Opera is based on "The Legend of Zhen Huan," a 76-episode TV drama that became a hit in China last year.

The contemporary online novel by Liu Lianzi centers on palace intrigue involving the scheming and manipulations of concubines trying to become the emperor's favorite. It depicts how concubine Zhen Huan survives the intrigue and manages to become the Empress Dowager. She pays a high price: her true love and her first baby.

According to Shanghai Yueju Opera House, the show's producer, soft, elegant and feminine Yueju Opera is ideal for telling love stories.

Compared with the TV drama, the opera version will focus more on the romance and sisterly affection between Zhen and her best friend Shen Meizhuang.

Opera scriptwriter Huang Yan says the biggest challenge is to condense the long, drawn out story into a four-hour stage production.

"We have to be careful to choose some episodes that cater to the taste of our audience," Huang says.

The first half, a two-hour play, will be staged from October 21 to 23 during the Shanghai International Arts Festival. All of the characters will be played by the troupe's young performers. Scheduling of the next two-hour segment is yet revealed.

Author Liu, a Yueju Opera fan, says elaborate costumes will help tell the story in a poetic way.

Innovate or fade away appears to be the Chinese Opera mantra these days. In some operas, traditional signing is combined with jazz, rap and modern dance elements.

The show is expected to go on national tour.

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