Engaging with the grass roots
Yangtze River Delta region Chinese opera artists summer performance tour
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.
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.
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.
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.