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From operatic tales of grandeur to delicate romance

TRADITIONAL Peking and Yueju operas will be staged through April, showing both the boisterous, martial arts plays of the north and the lilting refined tales from the south, reports Xu Wei.

The traditional opera series at Shanghai Oriental Art Center features Peking Opera, including a famous tale of women generals, and the same story told by refined Yueju Opera known for its delicacy.

In Peking Opera, women are played by men; in Yueju Opera, most of the men (sensitive young scholars and noblemen) are played by women.

The two versions make for interesting comparisons.

The series got underway last night with the award-winning modern Peking Opera (no elaborate costumes), "Elegant Red Silk Scarf," staged by the Jiangsu Province Peking Opera House. The opera will not be staged again during this series.

Its popularity, however, indicates that contemporary, 20th-century events can be turned into Peking Opera.

"Red Scarf" is about returning overseas Chinese student Fang Fei who grows mature during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).

In addition to its modern storyline, the opera blends a traditional string and percussion band, folk songs and contemporary symphony.

The upcoming Peking Operas are traditional.

"Serve the Country with Loyalty," to be staged tomorrow evening, tells the story of Yue Fei, a patriotic general in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) who fought the enemy from Jin state.

"Mu Guiying Breaks Through Tianmen Array," to be staged on Sunday afternoon, tells the ancient legend of seven women generals of the Yang family ?? they stepped up to replace their slain husbands. They are commanded by the eighth woman Mu Guiying who learned from her general father how to break the enemy's "invincible" battle formation.

Unlike boisterous Peking Opera, the virtually all-women Yueju Opera is characterized with romance, elegance and subtlety.

Among all its distinctive performing schools, the Lu school initiated by artist Lu Ruiying decades ago is known for its soft, sweet singing and rich vocal melodies.

From April 21 to 26, Yueju Opera fans can watch several authentic Lu school performances by her apprentices, such as Sun Zhijun and Zhang Yongmei. The 77-year-old Lu is the art director of all the performances.

"It's my responsibility to pass the magnificent theatrical legacy down to the younger generation," Lu says. "To cater to modern tastes, we have also made some changes to the original scripts, making them less complicated and easier to understand."

The repertoire includes a Yuju Opera version of the "Mu Guiying," and classic Lu school excerpts from classics "The Girl Called Jiujin," and "The Story of the Western Wing."

All the themes were written by Zhan Hao, a friend of Lu for more than 40 years.

The series pays tribute to Lu's great contributions and provides a platform for emerging young artists, says Li Li, director of Shanghai Yueju Opera House. The young performers add some new elements to the old theatrical art.

Peking Opera "Serve the Country with Loyalty"

Date: March 21, 7:15pm

Peking Opera "Mu Guiying Breaks Through Tianmen Array"

Date: March 22, 2pm

Venue: Majestic Theater, 66 Jiangning Rd

Tickets: 60-380 yuan

Tel: 962-388

Lu School Yueju Opera excerpt show

Date: April 21, 7:15pm

Yueju Opera "The Story of the Western Wing"

Date: April 23-24, 7:15pm

Venue: Shanghai Oriental Art Center, 425 Dingxiang Rd

Tickets: 60-420 yuan

Tel: 6854-1234, 962-388

Yueju Opera "Mu Guiying"

Date: April 25-26, 7:15pm

Venue: Shanghai Art Theater, 466 Jiangniang Rd

Tickets: 60-320 yuan

Tel: 6256-8282


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