Her­itage Downn Un­der

Clas­si­cal Pek­ing Oper­ara takes stage in Aus­trailia lia

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at chen­nan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

WPek­ing Opera, un­like other per­form­ing arts, is more than just mu­sic and singing.” Wu Ji­a­tong, gen­eral man­ager, Wu Pro­mo­tion

hen the Pek­ing Opera Fes­ti­val opened on Tues­day at the Dar­win Entertainment Cen­tre, au­di­ences in Aus­tralia got the chance to see a troupe of nearly 70 Pek­ing Opera actors and mu­si­cians from the Jingju The­ater Com­pany of Bei­jing, which is on tour through Dec 1.

Pek­ing Opera, also known as jingju in Chi­nese, has a his­tory of more than 200 years and was de­clared as In­tan­gi­ble Cul­tural Her­itage of Hu­man­ity by UNESCO in 2010.

Dur­ing the fes­ti­val, the troupe will present two clas­si­cal Pek­ing Opera pieces, The Leg­end of the White Snake and One Good Turn De­serves An­other, as well as three ex­tracts from Pek­ing Opera pieces— Mon­key King Cre­ates Havoc in Heaven, At the Cross Roads and Pre­sent­ing A Pearl on Rain­bow Bridge.

“The Leg­end of the White Snake is a grace­ful dis­play of mar­tial arts, while One Good Turn De­serves An­other em­pha­sizes the char­ac­ters’ emo­tions,” says Li En­jie, direc­tor of Jingju The­ater Com­pany of Bei­jing, one of the largest and most pres­ti­gious Pek­ing Opera troupes that was founded in 1979.

“Many West­ern au­di­ences know Pek­ing Opera only for its cap­ti­vat­ing mar­tial arts, elab­o­rate makeup and cos­tumes. But those are just parts of the an­cient art,” Li says. “We want au­di­ences to get an au­then­tic and com­pre­hen­sive un­der­stand­ing of Pek­ing Opera so we stage pieces like One Good Turn De­serves An­other (at the event).”

He also says Pek­ing Opera pieces are not just vis­ual spec­ta­cles but are full of tra­di­tional Chi­nese val­ues such as loy­alty, mod­esty and hon­esty.

Elab­o­rat­ing on what makes Pek­ing Opera rare, Wu Ji­a­tong, gen­eral man­ager of Wu Pro­mo­tion, one of the first pri­vate tour­ing com­pa­nies and pro­mot­ers in China, says: “Pek­ing Opera, un­like other per­form­ing arts, is more than just mu­sic and singing. It also com­bines drama, danc­ing, mar­tial arts and ac­ro­bat­ics, which makes it one of the most mul­ti­fac­eted the­atri­cal forms in the world.”

Wu Pro­mo­tion has been or­ga­niz­ing the Pek­ing Opera Fes­ti­val since 2012.

“We want more peo­ple to rec­og­nize its beauty,” Wu says.

Wu, whose com­pany works on tak­ing Chi­nese artists to the West and bring­ing West­ern per­form­ers for shows in China, sees the fes­ti­val as a way to pro­mote and pre­serve the ex­quis­ite art form.

Founded in 1991, Wu Pro­mo­tion pro­duces around 500 concerts and events ev­ery year, in China and abroad. One of their best-known projects is the an­nual overseas tour of tra­di­tional Chi­nese or­ches­tras dur­ing Spring Fes­ti­val.

The cur­rent event in Aus­tralia is the eighth tour of the Pek­ing Opera Fes­ti­val by the Jingju The­ater Com­pany of Bei­jing and Wu Pro­mo­tion.

Back in 2012, after the the­ater troupe worked with the Na­tional Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts to stage the Pek­ing Opera production, Red Cliff, adapted from the 14th-cen­tury novel Ro­mance of the Three King­doms, by Luo Guanzhong, Wu joined hands with the Jingju The­ater Com­pany and the Na­tional Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts, to take the show to Europe, where it was staged at the Vi­enna Burgth­e­ater, Hun­gar­ian State Opera House and Na­tional Theatre Prague.

Later the same year, Wu Pro­mo­tion sup­ported the Jingju The­ater Com­pany’s tours of Ger­many and Italy.

In 2013, the troupe toured the Nether­lands and Aus­tria.

Mean­while, to cel­e­brate the 120th birth an­niver­sary of Pek­ing Opera mas­ter Mei Lan­fang (1894-1961), who is cred­ited with in­tro­duc­ing the art form to West­ern au­di­ences with his de­but per­for­mance in the United States in 1930, the troupe per­formed in New York and Wash­ing­ton in 2013.

The fes­ti­val has also trav­eled to Rus­sia, Brazil and Switzer­land, and has, so far, at­tracted more than 50,000 view­ers.

“We want the tour to be­come a brand, like our an­nual overseas tour of tra­di­tional Chi­nese or­ches­tras dur­ing Spring Fes­ti­val, which has been run­ning for 18 years,” says Wu.

Dur­ing each tour, be­fore the per­form­ers ap­pear on stage, a mod­er­a­tor ex­plains the ba­sics of Pek­ing Opera in the lo­cal lan­guage, he says.

The au­di­ence then learn how to tell from the mu­sic what is hap­pen­ing on stage, the mean­ing of cer­tain ges­tures and how a 1,000 mile trip can be done with a few sim­ple move­ments.

As for the re­sponse to the fes­ti­val, Li says: “We have had a lot of suc­cess when we per­form in other coun­tries.”

Re­call­ing a show in Rio dur­ing the troupe’s tour of Brazil in 2013, he says: “I asked the au­di­ence through a trans­la­tor if they could un­der­stand the piece we had just per­formed.”

A mid­dle-aged man then stood up and told him how he un­der­stood the piece, One Good Turn De­serves An­other.

“I was glad that though there were just sym­bolic move­ments and a lan­guage bar­rier, we had got the mes­sage across to the au­di­ence,” Li adds.


Top: A Pek­ing Opera artist from the Jingju The­ater Com­pany of Bei­jing per­forms in the United States in 2013. Above left: Late Pek­ing Opera artist Mei Bao­jiu, son of Pek­ing Opera mas­ter Mei Lan­fang, went on stage after a US per­for­mance in 2013. Above cen­ter: A per­former paints his face for a role be­fore a show. Above right: Au­di­ence mem­bers meet a Pek­ing Opera player dur­ing the troupe’s tour in Brazil.

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