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Hong Kong singers and 'Snow White' ballet

THE Shanghai Grand Theater will present more than 280 events during the six-month World Expo 2010, and tomorrow at 7:30pm the Yao Po Singers from Hong Kong will take the stage as Hong Kong's first Expo performance.

The show "Rock Hard" at the Drama Theater is also the first performance on the Chinese mainland by the Hong Kong troupe.

"It is a great opportunity for us to showcase Hong Kong talent during this mega event in Shanghai," says director and designer Yuri Ng.

The performance in Cantonese is based on Hong Kong stories that will be printed in the program booklet. Even without an exact understanding, the audience can appreciate the performance.

"Using all men's voices as our instruments, even without translation, we can still bring the story of Hong Kong to outsiders," says composer Ng Cheuk Yin.

"Rock Hard" is an edgy musical production featuring a capella singers and a female dancer. It takes a new look at Hong Kong's history and turns the city's folklore on its head.

The show premiered in 2008 and won the 2009 Golden Sail Music Award for Best Serious Music Competition.

During the Expo Shanghai, Hong Kong will present 26 events with more than 70 performances and four visual arts exhibitions.

The Shanghai Grand Theater will be an important Expo performance venue outside the Expo site.

Ensembles from many countries, including France, the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Italy, Monaco and Belgium, will perform, according to Zhang Zhe, general manager of the theater.

Other highlights are listed below.

'Snow White'

May 8-9, 7:15pm

The great romantic contemporary ballet show performed by Ballet Preljocaj from France will make its Asia premiere as the celebration for Expo Shanghai tomorrow and Sunday.

Now comprised of 26 dancers, the group has created 45 choreographic works, eight of which are currently in its repertoire, ranging from duets to larger formations. The troupe performs about 110 dates per year on tour, in France and abroad.

"Snow White," as the latest creation of the group, is based on the Grimm brothers' fairytale. It features all 26 dancers and a score based on Mahler symphonies.

'Qingming Riverside'

July 9-10, 7:15pm

The Hong Kong Dance Company will bring to life the painted scroll "Along the River During the Qingming Festival," considered a national treasure of the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The work is not only an artistic gem but also a valuable reference for studies of Song social and cultural life.

After two years of meticulous studies on the Song Dynasty and its dance, the creative team developed a lyrical interpretation of the 5.2-meter-long painting featuring more than 800 people engaged in all sorts of activities. The dance poem in 18 cantos captures the panorama of life along the Bian River in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127).

Dutch theater

May 18-19, 7:15pm

Considered a revolutionary dance ensemble, the Nederlands Dans Theater II will take the stage on May 18-19.

Founded in 1978, this ensemble of young raging talents is regarded as one of the most revolutionary ensembles in the world of modern dance. It currently consists of 16 dancers under 23 years of age.

They are known for astounding technique, creativity and energy.

This time, they will perform three programs in the upcoming show - "Chapeau," "God and Dogs" and "Said and Done."

Modern operas

May 28-June 5, 7:15pm

Three major original operas by the Shanghai Opera House will be staged.

"The King of Chu" will receive its world premiere; "Xi Shi" will make its Shanghai premiere; and the "Thunderstorm" is generating high expectations.

"The King of Chu" is based on the story of famous general Xiang Yu, who overthrew the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).

While he was a great warrior, he was a poor ruler; his impetuous nature doomed him to fail in his struggle with Liu Bang over supremacy of China.

"This powerful new opera gives a vivid account of Xiang's rivalry with Liu, with a brand-new score by famous composer Jing Xiang," says Zha Mingzhe, director of the opera.

The principal casts include Wei Song, Xu Xiaoying, Yang Xiaoyong, Zhao Qing and Chi Liming.

Based on the 1930s drama of Cao Yu, the most important Chinese playwright in the 20th century, the two-act "Thunderstorm" tells the story of the destruction of a family headed by a tyrannical patriarch.

The opera involves "complicated blood relationships" and tragic coincidences befalling the Chou family in the 1930s. It is an essential part of the modern Chinese opera scene.

"The opera's symphonic composition is expressive with strong dramatic impact," says Lin Yousheng, the conductor.

Starring Xu Xiaoying and Wei Song, the story of "Xi Shi" centers on Xi Shi, one of the renowned Four Beauties of Ancient China, a royal concubine and favorite who spied for the king's enemy in the late Spring and Autumn Period (770-467 BC).

The king became infatuated with her, neglected affairs of state and was overthrown.

Traditional opera

June 23-26, 7:15pm

Besides modern opera, Taiwan's Contemporary Legend Theater will bring the recreated traditional Peking Opera "The Kingdom of Desire" to Shanghai stage, with the principal cast Wu Hsing Kuo. It's a production combining East and West.

The company created a mesmerizing adaptation of Shakespeare's "Macbeth," by incorporating the outstanding elements of traditional Chinese opera with sophisticated singing, intricate dancing and thrilling acrobatic fighting.

'La Boheme'

August 4, 7:15pm

Teatro Regio Torino will perform the classic four-act piece by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924).

The world premiere of this opera was in Turin in 1896 at the Teatro Regio. Since then, "La Boheme" has become part of the standard Italian opera repertory and is one of the most frequently performed operas internationally.

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