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Opera festival bursts with style

CHINESE operas come in many styles with often complicated and intriguing stories. Twelve classics are destined to please fans of the folk art forms, writes Xu Wei.

Traditional opera lovers can experience 12 classical performances and lectures covering Peking Opera, Yueju Opera, Kunqu Opera, Huju Opera and Huaiju Opera between March 13 and April 28.

Performers from six major opera houses in the Yangtze River Delta region will take part in the festival to be held at Shanghai Oriental Art Center.

The award-winning Kunqu Opera "Gongsun Zidu" will be the opening performance. The story, set during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), centers on assistant general Gongsun Zidu's life as he plots an assassination.

The story also confronts audiences with the idea that there is not much difference between a hero and a villain - just a momentary slip.

"Gongsun" breaks Kunqu Opera traditions that give priority to wenxi, characterized by singing and acting, and uses the acrobatics and action of the wuxi style.

The festival will also feature the Peking Opera classic "Xi Shi Returns to the Yue State," the Yueju Opera romance "The Story of the Western Wing," the Huaiju Opera experiment "Golden Dragon and Larva of Mosquitoes" and the Huju Opera tragedy "Rui Jue."

Most of the art forms have originated and flourished in Shanghai and the neighboring provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu even though they boast different styles and charms.

Another highlight of the festival will likely be the Huangmei Opera legend "The Female Consort Prince." Huangmei Opera is a regional opera in Anhui Province.

The show tells the story of a woman disguised as a man who risks her life by cheating the emperor and his daughter to save her imprisoned lover. Spectacular stage settings and costumes are added to the traditional singing and dancing.

"Last year, the Monthly Series Performances of Chinese Traditional Operas attracted more than 15,000 spectators and received wide acclaims," says Lin Hongming, general manager of Shanghai Oriental Art Center.

"It strengthened our confidence to present the gala again with more memorable plays and famous actors. It is also part of our celebration for the coming of World Expo 2010 Shanghai."

Famous actors and experts such as Lin Weilin, Wu Qiong, Liang Weiping and He Zhanhao will give free lectures about the artistry and rejuvenation of these age-old art forms.

Lectures about the five traditional Chinese operas will be held at 7pm on March 12 (Kunqu Opera), 2pm on March 15 (Peking Opera), March 21 (Huangmei Opera), 2pm on March 22 (Huaiju Opera) and March 28 (Yueju Opera).

The performance schedule is available at Tickets will be priced from 60 (US$8.23) to 420 yuan. For more details, please call 6854-1234.


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