Fri, Aug 06, 2004 - Page 19 News List

The Shanghai Beijing Opera is behind a musical rennaissance

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

PHOTO COURTESY OF ARTS FORMOSA

The Shanghai Beijing Opera Theatre ( 海京劇院) will be treating local audiences to a veritable feast of classical opera in the coming week when the eminent troupe takes to the boards of the National Theater (台北國家戲劇院) to perform a selection of some well-known and lesser-known Beijing operas.

Formed in 1955, the Shanghai Beijing Opera Theater has 77 full time performers and is one of the most well traveled opera troupes in China. Since being founded almost 50 years ago the troupe has not only performed widely at home, but has also toured extensively throughout Asia, the Americas and Europe.

Originally staged only for the Emperor and his immediate family, the art form now known as Beijing Opera was developed from an amalgamation of several regional operatic styles and forms some time in the late 1700s. It is widely believed that Beijing Opera was born shortly after four Anhui-based opera troupes went to Beijing in 1790 and began to blend their styles with those of troupes from Hubei.

Outlawed during the Cultural Revolution, traditional Beijing opera was brought back from the brink of it demise in 1978, when Communist authorities once again allowed artisans to stage non class struggle related productions. Opera's out-of-date styles and the younger generations lack of historical and theatrical knowledge apropos Beijing opera meant that the art form never regained the prominence it enjoyed during the pre-Cultural Revolution era, however.

In a bid to ensure that the two-centuries old tradition survives for another 200 years, the young group, with an average age of 30, undertakes educational tours of schools and colleges throughout China, where it performs and teaches operatic techniques to students.

As the first major Chinese operatic touring group to perform in Taiwan in almost two years, the Shanghai Beijing Opera Theatre will be hoping to create something of a renaissance of Beijing opera when it takes to the stage to perform the first of 10 colorful and stylized productions next Tuesday.

Performances by the troupe will include Forth Son Visits his Mother (四郎探母), The Story of the West Chamber (西廂記), Wu Zi Xu) ( 子胥), The Chin Lan Purse (鎖麟囊), Lien Huan Tao (連環套), The Red Haired Galloping Horse (紅鬃烈馬), Madam Xuan Guan (荀灌娘), June Snow (六月雪), Xiao Shun River (商河), Savior's Wedding (狀元媒), Song Jiang Inscribes a Poem (宋江題詩).

Along with the performances of entire operas the troupe will also be holding a special concert entitled Beijing Opera Virtuoso Solo, which will feature arias from a many of the most well known of all the many hundreds of Beijing operas.

Performance notes:

What: Shanghai Beijing Opera Theater ( 海京劇.

Where: National Theater (台北國家戲劇院)

When: Tuesday, Aug. 10 through Sunday, Aug. 15.

Tickets: Tickets cost from NT$300 to NT$2,000 and are available from ERA Ticketing or direct the CKS Cultural Center box office.

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