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September 10, 2011

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A modern twist on Chuanju Opera

CHUANJU Opera has stunned many people around the world as performers change faces in an instant and do other jaw-dropping stunts such as hiding knives.

However, in the new experimental Chuanju Opera "Sighing," acclaimed female Chuanju artist Tian Mansha wants to reveal more charm and cultural connotations of the age-old opera.

"I want to seek some new possibilities and approach traditional Chinese operas in a new way," says Tian, who also directs "Sighing."

It is inspired by the story of a Chuanju Opera performer who devotes his life to art and art education despite being banned from performing during the turmoil of the "cultural revolution" (1966-1976).

Tian portrays the artist as a female in three different periods of her life. The first starts from the moment the artist is attracted to Chuanju Opera while the third phase shows her efforts to teach the art to younger generations.

Historical events and folk legends are the major inspiration for Chuanju Opera, which is popular in southwestern China. However, Tian tries to tell contemporary stories and tackle modern topics while using traditional Chuanju Opera vocals and stunts.

The stage production has been critically acclaimed since touring Europe last year. To Tian's surprise, a lot of Western spectators fully understood the story.

"When I performed in the Netherlands, some people in the crowd were moved to tears by the protagonist's unyielding lifelong pursuit of art," she says. "The play does have a universal message of following your dream. I am glad so many people like my attempt to innovate the art form."

Tian, one of the country's most influential Chuanju Opera performers and directors, is also a teacher at the Shanghai Theater Academy. During her more than three decades on stage, the artist has received numerous top awards for stage art in China, including the Wenhua award and the China Theater Plum Blossom Award.

Tian is considering writing and staging another Chuanju Opera play that combines modern experimental theater with traditional Chuanju costumes, music and percussion.

With a history of more than 300 years, Chuanju Opera features vivid, humorous narration, singing and acrobatics. It also uses a lot of stunts such as face-changing and fire spitting to portray special characters.

According to Hu Xiaojun, a local theater expert and critic, many traditional Chinese operas that have seen a drop in attendance need imaginative and innovative makeovers. Tian is certainly doing her best.

Date: September 19, 7:45pm

Venue: STA Theater, 630 Huashan Rd

Tickets: 30-280 yuan

Tel: 962-388, 6248-5600

With Chinese and English subtitles.


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