En­gag­ing with the grass roots

Yangtze River Delta re­gion Chi­nese opera artists sum­mer per­for­mance tour

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE -

Dozens of win­ners of the Plum Per­for­mance Award, China’s high­est prize for drama, and the Mag­no­lia Award, China’s top prize for a tele­vi­sion se­ries, re­cently gath­ered at An­hui Grand Theater in He­fei, East China’s An­hui Prov­ince, to per­form for lo­cal peo­ple in the re­gion, thep­a­per.cn re­ported.

The grass-roots per­for­mance, led by two na­tional treasure-level artists, Shang Changrong and Cai Zhen­gren, both se­nior ci­ti­zens, gath­ered the most pres­ti­gious artists in the field of Chi­nese op­eras. The theater was packed and stand­ing-room only. Most of the au­di­ence were lo­cal work­ers, in­clud­ing traf­fic po­lice and san­i­ta­tion work­ers.

He­fei is the first stop of the sum­mer tour, fol­lowed by Nan­jing, East China’s Jiangsu Prov­ince, and Ningbo, East China’s Zhe­jiang Prov­ince. These award-win­ning artists will also visit ru­ral ar­eas in the Yangtze River Delta re­gion, and com­mu­ni­cate closely with lo­cal artists.

Shanghai Cen­ter of Chi­nese Op­eras launched the project in 2017 to en­cour­age artists in the Yangtze River Delta re­gion to give per­for­mances all across China. The project aims to en­cour­age artists to get closer to lo­cal au­di­ences as well as to ex­change ideas with re­gional artists.

Gu Hao­hao, di­rec­tor of Shanghai Cen­ter of Chi­nese Op­eras, stressed that the pur­pose of the project is not only about per­for­mances on stage but com­mu­ni­cat­ing off-stage.

“In 2017, when we toured around China, our artists met with many artists from other art groups. They talked about the sta­tus quo of Chi­nese op­eras. They also shared their life ex­pe­ri­ences while hav­ing meals to­gether or walk­ing on roads to­gether,” Gu added.

Gain­ing in­spi­ra­tion

In terms of her mo­ti­va­tion to launch the project, Gu ex­plained that at first she hoped this project could es­tab­lish a plat­form for Chi­nese opera artists in Shanghai to present their art out­side of Shanghai. This is the sec­ond year of the project.

“On the one hand, the project al­lows Chi­nese opera artists to have a broader plat­form to present their art na­tion­wide; on the other hand, this project al­lows artists from dif­fer­ent re­gions and back­grounds to ex­change ideas with each other and pos­si­bly gain in­spi­ra­tion from each other,” Gu said.

Gu her­self also par­tic­i­pated in the first tour per­for­mance in He­fei. Though the tem­per­a­ture was as high as 38 C on that day, she wore thick lay­ers of cos­tumes while com­plet­ing very de­mand­ing act­ing scenes on stage.

Af­ter the suc­cess­ful launch of the project in 2017, many artists ex­pected to par­tic­i­pate in this year’s event. This year’s pro­gram in­volves more artists than in 2017, in­clud­ing award-win­ning Chi­nese opera per­form­ers Qian Huili, Mao Shanyu and Wang Peiyu.

Gao Bowen par­tic­i­pated in the project for two con­sec­u­tive years and also vol­un­teered to be the host for four per­for­mances. Like­wise, 78-yearold Shang Changrong and 77-year-old Cai Zhen­gren – two na­tional trea­surelevel artists – par­tic­i­pated in the tour for the sec­ond time.

Ful­fill­ing spir­i­tu­al­ity

De­spite the 38 C tem­per­a­tures, se­nior per­former Cai said he planned to give four per­for­mances in three re­gions, as he be­lieves it is their obli­ga­tion to spread the art to grass-roots peo­ple.

Shang told thep­a­per.cn that he was im­pressed and touched by the au­di­ence in An­hui. “Many of them are or­di­nary work­ers, such as po­lice, nurses, san­i­tary work­ers and teach­ers. They con­trib­ute a lot to our so­ci­ety at their po­si­tion,” Shang said, adding that he felt ob­li­gated to ful­fill the spir­i­tual world of these work­ers.

Cai Zhen­gren pointed out that it is al­ways im­por­tant for artists to get their art into or­di­nary peo­ple’s lives in or­der to get closer to the grass roots. “Since I started my Chi­nese opera per­form­ing ca­reer, I have re­al­ized that artists should get into the real life and or­di­nary peo­ple. This is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of artists,” Cai said.

The ar­ti­cle was a trans­la­tion based on a re­port pub­lished in thep­a­per.cn.

Pho­tos: VCG

Pek­ing Opera master Shang Changrong at a lec­ture in Beijing in 2017

Award-win­ning Pek­ing Opera per­former Wang Peiyu

Award-win­ning Kunqu Opera per­former Gu Hao­hao (left) at a per­for­mance in 2014

Mao Shanyu (left) per­forms in the clas­si­cal Hu Opera Thun­der­storm at Suzhou Poly Grand Theatre in 2017.

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