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High tech helps tradition come alive for the opera

A new production of "The White Snake Enchantress - The Symphony of Eternal Love" combines the best of Peking Opera traditions with modern approaches. Xu Wei looks at an innovation.

Peking Opera artists have never stopped trying to make the age-old traditional art form accessible to young people.

This is the reason for the new show "The White Snake Enchantress - The Symphony of Eternal Love," the latest production by the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and Shanghai's Peking Opera House.

From March 6 to 8, this Chinese musical and theatrical experiment will be on stage at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center.

Far from the classic Peking Opera adaptation of "Legend of the White Snake," this modern stage work combines Peking Opera performance styles with Western musical elements.

The original music will be played live by an orchestra using traditional Chinese instruments (flute and urheen). But the latest high technology and multimedia will be employed to create vivid and eye-catching settings for the story such as the flooding of Jinshan Temple.

According to director Jiang Weiguo, it has taken about one year to prepare for this avant-garde experiment.

The love story begins with the young scholar Xu Xian's romantic encounter with the white snake enchantress at the West Lake. They fall in love with each other at first sight and are married. But their peaceful married life is interrupted by a monk called Fa Hai one day, who warns Xu that his pregnant wife is actually a snake.

"The musical has several scenes which feature different styles of music, lighting and stunts representing the different emotions and atmosphere," director Jiang says.

Veteran Peking Opera performer Shi Yihong will play the white snake enchantress.

Shi says that the new production featuring both Oriental and Western flavors will inspire the artists to perform with more imagination and passion. She intends to present a romantic and brave enchantress who willingly sacrifices everything to pursue her love.

"Opera fans will find that different visual and auditory experiences will be merged for the stage," says Dong Jinping, an official with the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. "Today, traditional Chinese operas really need good production and a more creative program that caters to the tastes of a large potential younger audience."

Date: March 6-8, 7:15pm

Venue: Shanghai Oriental Art Center, 425 Dingxiang Rd, Pudong

Tickets: 80-680 yuan

Tel: 962-388, 6433-2691


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