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February 22, 2011

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Series of shows celebrate Gai

BASED on historical novels or legends, Peking Opera is well-known for its two major traditions - the "civil" one characterized by singing and dancing, and the "martial" one featuring acrobatic fighting and stunts.

Gai Jiaotian, the late Peking Opera master who developed his own wusheng (man with martial arts) performing school decades ago is one of the most influential figures in the "martial" genre of the opera. His richly rendered stage characters are charming and impressive, such as Wu Song, a fictional hero from "The Water Margin," and Xiang Yu, the ancient prominent military leader. It is said that Gai could jump over a table and land on the ground without making a sound at the age of 70.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the artist's death, Shanghai Peking Opera House will stage three retrospective performances from March 4 to 6 at Yifu Theater.

Gai's students from all over the country, including Zhang Shanlin, Zhang Xiaobo and Chen Lin, will present the representative plays and excerpts of the Gai school.

The highlight will be the full version of "Wu Song," which will be staged on March 4. The play centers on the tiger-fighting hero who later joins the Liangshan bandits after avenging the murder of his older brother.

"This play had been staged many times by Gai," says Zhang Shanlin, student and grandson of Gai. (Gai's original name is Zhang Yingjie.) "Due to my grandpa's superb kung fu skills and his deep love and dedication to Peking Opera, he was also crowned as the 'living Wu Song'."

On the following two days, excerpts from the classic "martial" pieces "Three Way Fork in the Road," "Lotus Lantern" and "Village of Tigers" will be staged. The audience will have the chance to see various "fighting" scenes in the opera, from fighting empty-handed to fighting with weapons.

According to Jin Chongliang, director of Shanghai Peking Opera House, the performances in memory of Gai are also a rare chance to promote and preserve the unique martial-acrobat arts style of the age-old opera.

Date: March 4-6, 7:15pm

Venue: Yifu Theater, 701 Fuzhou Rd

Tickets: 50-380 yuan

Tel: 6322-5294


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