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New, intimate setting for 'The Peony Pavilion'

THE Kunqu Opera classic, "The Peony Pavilion," is being staged in an elegantly decorated old house Hua Ya Tang (Elegant Flower Hall) that only seats 29 people. The intimate setting is a return to the original performing style in private homes or small court settings.

The close-up stage also enables the audience to appreciate delicate gestures and facial expressions.

It will be a long-running show, with performances every Friday at 8pm in the Hua Ya Tang at 65 Maoming Road N.

Promoters hope it will become a city attraction like the ERA acrobatic performance. The aim is to stage it at least through World Expo 2010 opening next May.

The two-hour performance stars Zhang Jun, considered the "Prince of Kunqu Opera."

Written by famed playwright Tang Xianzu during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the epic love story revolves round the forbidden love between a poor young scholar Liu Mengmei and Du Liniang, the daughter of a high official.

She falls asleep in the Peony Pavilion, meets him in her dream and falls in love. She languishes and dies, he falls in love with her portrait. There's death and resurrection, feudal ethics and eternal love.

The new version of the classic features fashionable theater elements and eye-catching costumes and settings.

"Ever since its debut 400 years ago, 'The Peony Pavilion' has inspired Chinese generations with its elegance and profound emotions," says actor Zhang. "But our new performance tries to return to the original staging as a private family or court entertainment of the Ming Dynasty."

Kunqu Opera originated 600 years ago in Kunshan, Jiangsu Province and is considered the progenitor of many traditional Chinese operas. It is recognized as a UNESCO intangible world heritage.

The ancient art form still does not interest most young people these days, however, actor Zhang has tried to connect with the younger generation.

Last year, he presented a concert that merged traditional Chinese theater with Western music. His excerpts from Kunqu Opera classics were accompanied by jazz from Belgian pianist/composer Jean Maljean.

"The Peony Pavilion" performances are part of a new project of Shanghai Modern Drama Valley, which aims to turn Jing'an District into an internationally recognized theater district.

The project will collaborate with World Expo which can provide opportunities and resources to help rejuvenate Kunqu Opera.

For details about the performance, pleasecontact 6267-7399.


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