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DRAMA in the CAPITAL

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-04-14 07:06

A Dream of the Red Mansions is being staged in Beijing as a part of the upcoming NCPA Yueju Opera Week

In February 1958, the Shanghai Yueju Opera Theater premiered a new production, A Dream of the Red Mansions, based on a Chinese novel of the same title written in the 18th century by Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) writer Cao Xueqin.

The production ran for more than 50 sold-out shows and then toured nationwide.

In 1959, the production made its debut in Beijing for the 10th anniversary celebrations of the founding of New China.

And, in 1962, the production was made into a two-episode film featuring the same cast.

The two leading actresses of the show, Wang Wenjuan and Xu Yulan, became national stars thanks to the performance in the capital then, which was watched and highly praised by the late Premier Zhou Enlai.

Speaking about the Beijing show, Wang, now 92, says: "We were all young actors then and it was a very exciting moment in my career."

Now, to mark the 60th anniversary of the premiere of A Dream of the Red Mansions, a new tour is being launched by the Shanghai Yueju Opera Theater.

From April 14 to 17, the company will stage the show at National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing.

Speaking about the upcoming tour, Wang says: "During the past 60 years, the production has toured the world, and now it's returning to the capital, which is like a reunion."

Yueju Opera is the second most popular Chinese opera form out of 348 opera genres in China, according to Liang Hongjun, the head of the Shanghai Yueju Opera Theater, which was founded in 1955.

The art form, which combines singing, dancing and acting, originated in Shengzhou, in Zhejiang province, in around 1906 and was mostly performed by male farmers.

It later became a popular art form in Zhejiang province and Shanghai. And in the 1920s, all-female Yueju Opera troupes began to appear in Shanghai.

Yueju Opera was incredibly popular in the 1930s and 40s.

DRAMA in the CAPITAL

The Shanghai Yueju Opera Theatre's A Dream of the Red Mansions is part of the upcoming Second NCPA Yueju Opera Week.

In 2014, the NCPA held the first Yueju Opera Week, and had Wang as its artistic consultant.

The event, which runs throughout May 5 at the NCPA, will feature eight Yueju Opera productions by four companies - the Shanghai Yueju Opera Theater; the Zhejiang Yueju Opera Theater; the Hangzhou Yueju Opera Theater and the Fanghua Yueju Opera Theater of Fujian province.

Speaking about the how the idea of the festival took shape, Wang Wei, the director of the performance department of the NCPA, says: "Four years ago we launched NCPA Yueju Opera Week because Yueju Opera is popular with Chinese audiences.

"And we wanted to bring together top artists from around the country, showcase their performances and the latest Yueju Opera works written and performed by young artists."

As for the highlights of the upcoming event, a new Yueju Opera production, titled A Traveler's Song, will make its debut at the NCPA on April 25 and 26.

The show, done by actors of Zhejiang Yueju Opera Theater, is inspired by a poem with the same title by Tang Dynasty (618-907) poet Meng Jiao.

It premiered at the Zhejiang Conservatory of Music in November 2017.

Then from April 29 to May 1, the Hangzhou Yueju Opera Theater will stage three productions: Xianglian's Case, a tragic story adapted from a Peking Opera show of the same title; A Strand of Alien, a comic show first performed by the late Yueju Opera actresses Fan Ruijuan (1924-2017) and Yuan Xuefen (1922-2011) in 1950s; and The Breeze Pavilion, which tells the story of an old couple adopting an abandoned child.

On May 5, fans will get to see Jade Dragonfly, which will be performed by national award-winning Yueju Opera actress Wang Jun'an, a student of the Yin school, one of the many genres of Yueju Opera.

The Yin school of Yueju Opera follows Yin Guifang (1919-2000), who was born in Xinchang county, in Zhejiang province and founded the Fanghua Yueju Opera Theater in Shanghai in 1946. Jade Dragonfly was one of her favorite works.

Separately, viewers can also learn the history of Yueju Opera by visiting an exhibition at the NCPA during the event.

There, costumes, headgear, scripts and musical instruments used in Yueju Opera performances will be displayed.

chennan@chinadaily.com.cn

 DRAMA in the CAPITAL

Shanghai Yueju Opera Theater's show, A Dream of the Red Mansions, which was based on a Chinese novel with the same title written in the 18th century, premiered in 1958 and will launch a national tour this year to mark its 60th anniversary. Photos provided to China Daily

DRAMA in the CAPITAL

(China Daily 04/14/2018 page20)

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