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October 9, 2011

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New efforts to revive old arts

TRADITIONAL operas have been losing audience for years, and theaters are trying to woo young fans to stay afloat.

Since few performance troupes of traditional theater receive state support and funding, they now must make their own way by turning a profit and working on new plays and programs that appeal to changing tastes.

Zhang Jun, the "Prince of Kunqu Opera," quit as an official of the Shanghai Kunqu Opera House in 2009 and founded a private Kunqu Opera art center. He promotes the opera among young professionals and expats.

The "Prince of Yueju Opera," Zhao Zhigang, set up an independent studio in neighboring Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, after leaving the Shanghai Yueju Opera House. He has presented an original play about a romance between a poor scholar and noblewoman.

Ever since 2007, the Shanghai Peking Opera House and Shanghai Kunqu Opera House have been hosting regular four-month "Follow Me" courses specially for young professionals. Famous artists have delivered lectures and demonstrations.

So far, only around 300 people have taken the courses.

Western theater elements are incorporated into some innovative operas. For instance, female Chuanju (Sichuan Opera) artist Tian Mansha tells a contemporary story in the new experimental one-woman concept opera "Sighing."


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