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Peking Opera Rigoletto 'Jester' performs magic

VERDI'S "Rigoletto" has been adapted into an innovative Peking Opera performance "The Jester" in which the court entertainer is no longer a hunchback, but a high-flying martial artist.

"The Jester" will be performed on October 15 an 16 at the Oriental Art Center by the Taipei Liyuan Peking Opera Theater.

Acclaimed Peking Opera master Li Baochun will play the jester. He specializes in demanding roles of the laosheng (bearded old man) and the wusheng (warrior). He also directs the opera.

Li established the noted Taipei Liyuan Peking Opera Theater in the 1990s, in conjunction with the Koo Foundation in Taiwan.

The plot has been changed somewhat from Verdi's version. All the names are Chinese and the jester is not hunchbacked because court jesters in China were rarely deformed or disabled; they were mostly gifted in arts and literature.

In both Verdi's and Li's operas, the jester procures beautiful women for the lascivious emperor but tries to shield his own daughter.

Elements of Western theater performances, as well as the segments from the major arias of the original will be blended into Peking operatic moves and melodies.

Li, the son of Peking Opera master Li Shaochun, has presented classic Chinese plays such as "The Wilderness" and "Mi Heng at the Drum."

This is the fourth time he has presented his work in Shanghai.

Li says he tries to demonstrate the artistic values of Peking Opera, which emphasize abstract and symbolic movement like pantomime, in addition to singing.

"When the opera was staged in Taiwan, it was hailed by many Peking Opera lovers," Li said. "Its success proves that traditional Chinese operas can also seek inspiration from other theater forms and take cues from Western stage design and music."

"It is not easy for any actor to play this complicated character. For the first time, Li will also perform magic on stage," said Vivien Koo, chief executive of the Koo Foundation and producer of the performances.

Date: October 15-16, 7:15pm

Venue: Shanghai Oriental Art Center, 425 Dingxiang Rd

Tel: 6854-1234


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