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Japan plans an operatictale of birds and friends

AS the centerpiece of its Expo appearance, Japan will stage an opera about a rare bird that avoided extinction in Japan with the help of China, the country's Expo team said yesterday.

The crested ibis was declared extinct in Japan in the 1970s. The Chinese government began giving some of its stock to Japan in the 1990s and the birds managed to re-establish themselves in Japan.

The opera, which will have Chinese and Japanese directors, will highlight the friendship and exchange between the two countries, Hirofumi Wakamatsu, director of the Japan Pavilion, told a press conference in Shanghai yesterday.

The opera will be easy to understand, with children its prime target audience, said opera creator Makoto Sato.

Sato said he imagined himself as a child when he was composing the piece.

"I am trying to send a message to the next generation that we will provide a beautiful future," Sato said.

The production will involve some traditional Chinese opera such as Kunqu, said Danny Yung, the Chinese director.

The Japanese Expo team will soon begin to recruit Chinese actors for the opera and high-tech robots may also be involved.

The 20-minute opera will be performed in the pavilion's 500-seat theater.

It will be performed many times throughout each day of the Expo, so all visitors will be able to watch it, Wakamatsu said.

The pavilion will be the largest venue built overseas by Japanese government. Capable of accommodating 1,500 people at once, the pavilion will be divided into three parts dedicated to the past, present and future. A complete tour of it will take 60 minutes.

Japan's Expo team expects 3 million visitors to its pavilion where there will a robot violinist as well as robots who can care for the elderly.

The pavilion's budget is 13 billion yen (US$132 million).


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