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January 14, 2010

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Classic operas meet 'Macbeth'

LOVERS of traditional Chinese operas and those who want innovation can savor theater starting tonight. Versions of "Hamlet," "Macbeth" and "Hunchback of Notre Dame" - plus Chinese classics - will be staged in a 17-show lineup from February 20 to March 7.

From tonight through Saturday, the Shanghai Peking Opera House presents four special performances at the Yifu Theater to commemorate the 115th anniversary of the birth of Peking Opera master Zhou Xinfang.

Zhou, founder of the Qi School, was celebrated in Shanghai for decades since the 1930s.

He was famous for his lightly husky voice and distinctive performing style.

Zhou's students will perform signature plays, including "Qin Xianglian," "Four Scholars" and "The Wu Long Yard."

On February 20, the Peking Opera and Kunqu Opera Festival opens at the Shanghai Grand Theater to celebrate traditional arts in the run-up to World Expo 2010 opening in Shanghai on May 1. The 17 performances will be staged through March 7.

The two forms of theater were leading forms of entertainment in China in the 1930s and symbols of the elite life in Shanghai and Beijing.

But the taste for traditional opera is declining, most young people prefer pop, so opera troupes are innovating to attract new fans.

"That's the reason why our programs feature both classics and new creative performances by young talents," says Sun Chongliang, director of the Shanghai Peking Opera House.

Innovations include shows adapted from Western literature. The upcoming festival includes the acclaimed Peking Opera version of "Hamlet" and "Hunchback of Notre Dame" and the Kunqu Opera version of "Macbeth" ("Notes of Blood").

All of these plays combine the Western story line with Chinese performing arts and have been praised by audiences, both Chinese and foreign.

In addition, some Chinese classics will be staged, including the Kunqu Opera romantic plays "The Palace of Eternal Youth" and "The Peony Pavilion" and the Peking Opera historic tale "Cao Cao and Yang Xiu."

The traditional opera festival will open the theater's grand series before the Expo, featuring dance, music and other folk theater.

Famed actors and experts such as Cai Zhengren and Shang Changrong will also give free lectures about the artistry and rejuvenation of the ancient art forms.

The performance schedule is available at Tickets will be priced from 50 yuan (US$7.35) to 380 yuan. For more details, pleasecall 6386-8686.

Performances in memory of Zhou Xinfang

Date: January 14-15, 7:15pm; January 16, 1:30pm, 7:15pm

Venue: Yifu Theater, 701 Fuzhou Rd

Tickets: 30-280 yuan

Tel: 6322-5294, 6322-5075


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