Fri, Jan 10, 2003 - Page 18 News List

Looking atopera throughpolitical eyes

By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER

Li Bao-chun in his role as the scholar of Pashan.


In the runup to the Chinese New Year, with many major venues and theatrical troupes taking a well-earned rest, the Koo's Cultural and Educational Foundation (辜公亮文教基金會) announced the premiere in March of a re-release of the opera The Scholar of Pashan (巴山秀才) by the famous Beijing opera star and educator Li Bao-chun (李寶春).

In an unusual move, Li Bao-chun will premiere the opera at the National Theater in Taipei rather than the Novel Hall (owned by the Koo group), where he performs as part of a commitment to the Koo's Cultural and Educational Foundation to preserve and promote Beijing opera. "We didn't want Li to become pigeon-holed, and by performing at the National Theater, this play can be exposed to more people," a spokesperson for Novel Hall said.

The Scholar of Pashan was first released in 1983 as a Sichuan opera by Wei Ming-lun (魏明倫). The story harks back to the politically serious role of opera as a means of social criticism, and legislators Shen Fu-hsiung (沈富雄) and Li Yung-ping (李永萍) were on hand to comment lightheartedly about the need to bring a greater sense of righteousness back to Taiwanese political life.

But for fans of the theater, the real interest lies in Li's reinterpretation of Wei's classic political opera, both in terms of the structure and also in technical aspects of performance in which Beijing opera differs from Sichuan opera. "Techniques such as the `changing face,' which is an integral part of Sichuan opera does not exist in Beijing opera, so we sought other ways to express that aspect of the drama," Li said. Li is very much in favor of keeping Beijing opera as a living art form, and using the show to comment on issues currently very much in the media. In this way the organizers hope to give Beijing opera greater contemporary relevance.

Tickets are already available for the show, which opens on Friday March 28 through the CKS Cultural Center.

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