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October 22, 2011

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Tibetans and Han defend Tibet

THE original Chinese opera "Red River Valley" about Tibetan and Han solidarity in the face of foreign invaders will be staged at Shanghai Grand Theater on November 4.

The opera, based on a 1997 movie of the same name, is one of the innovative Chinese performances for the 13th Shanghai International Arts Festival.

The movie directed by Feng Xiaoning was released when Hong Kong returned to China's sovereignty.

It is based on the 1961 book by British author Peter Fleming, "Bayonets to Lhasa: The First Full Account of the British Invasion of Tibet in 1904." Hundreds of Tibetans were killed in the conflict. The film starred Paul Kersey and Ning Jing.

The movie and now the opera tell heroic stories about ethnic Tibetans and Han people in what is now China's Tibet Autonomous Region, together resisting foreign incursion and exploitation.

Tibetan and Han people fight side by side; harmony of different cultures is a major theme of the opera. There's also a love story.

The opera will be presented by China Opera and Dance Drama Theater; noted soprano Yin Xiumei and tenor Wei Song will take the lead roles.

Though opera originated in the West, the music in "Red River Valley" incorporates ethnic elements.

"Since it is a story of Tibetan minority, more ethnic characteristics are considered in the composition," says composer Meng Weidong.

Though she majored in opera at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, Yin is best known for her solo performances such as "The Song of the Yangtze River."

"I like opera and I have seen many operas throughout the years, yet few motivated me to stand on the opera stage again," says Yin. But she enjoyed the 1997 film and its story.

"I told director Feng that I would love to play a role if there was an operatic version (of the movie)," she says. "And the chance came with this festival."

Creating an original opera is quite difficult, says Li Xiaoxiang, vice president of the China Opera and Dance Drama Theater.

"Fast-developing society with many kinds of free or low-cost entertainment puts great pressure on traditional stage arts," says Li. "And it's even more difficult for opera that requires large investments, both financially and in terms of human resources."

"Red River Valley" is an art project jointly funded by the government and private investors. Artists hope for similar financial support for more new Chinese opera ventures.

Yin says performing in opera is more difficult than performing solo in concert.

"We have to act, sing and dance while wearing heavy costumes and sometimes carrying heavy props," says Yin, who is in her 50s, but plays a vivacious young Tibetan girl in the opera.

"From the moment I put on the costume I have to move, run, laugh and cry like a teenage girl," she says.

Tenor Wei says the score is idea for his vocal range and characteristics. "The melody suits my voice perfectly, as if it had been written for me," he says.

The opera will feature music, dance, ritual and background with Tibetan characteristics.

Date: November 4, 7:15pm

Venue: Shanghai Grand Theater

Address: 300 People's Ave.

Tickets: 100-480yuan

Tel: 962-388


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