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Peking Opera strikes a chord in the UK

By DU XIAOYING | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-10-23 16:32

Peking Opera strikes a chord in the UK

A scene from A River All Red in London on Saturday. [Photo/China Daily]

People describe Peking Opera in many ways. Some say it is a comprehensive art form that combines many elements, including singing, speaking, acting, and fighting. Others say it is a stage performance with fancy costumes and masks. And others see it as a symbol of China and a cultural link between the East and the West.

Londoners now have the opportunity to experience it and define it for themselves. The China National Peking Opera Company, China's most elite organization in the performance of Peking Opera, has returned to the British capital for a fourth time, bringing with it two masterpieces: A River All Red and The Phoenix Returns Home. The operas, which opened on Saturday at Sadler's Wells Theatre, are being performed until Wednesday.

A River All Red is based on the true story of general Yue Fei from the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Yue is one of the most famed generals in China's history and a legend of resolute loyalty to his country and allegiance to his people.

The Phoenix Returns Home tells the humorous story of a senior court minister who retires and returns to his hometown with his two daughters. The elder daughter, Xueyan, is a plain and ordinary woman while the younger Xue'e is beautiful and elegant. The opera tells tales of love and mistaken identity.

Li Xin, a Chinese man living in London, said: "The performance was really touching, I wasn't expected the Peking Opera would actually express as much emotion as other modern operas. The performance was exquisite."

The productions are being presented in partnership with London-based Sinolink Productions, a company that promotes Chinese art, culture and performance to British audiences.

"Those selected are all-time classics of the authentic Beijing Opera," said Kevin Zhang, producer and director of SinoLink. "It is delightful to see Beijing Opera's fan base growing and we always want to see more next year."

Zhang said the performances so far have received very positive feedback from audiences and the United Kingdom's media.

"British audiences are quite open-minded and have a very good understanding of Beijing Opera", Zhang said.

Yu Kuizhi, who led the cast of A River All Red and who is vice-president of the China National Peking Opera Company, said it was his fourth time performing in the UK. He said he has noticed an increasing interest in the art from among the public, and particularly among the young.

"Never underestimate Western audiences," Yu said. "You may think that it would be hard for them to understand Beijing Opera but that's not true. Of course, we have different educational backgrounds and a different history and culture, but their level of art appreciation is no doubt world-class, especially the attention and awe they have for performers and the arts."

He said a lot of people have traveled to Beijing since 2015 to watch performances, after first seeing Peking Opera performed in the UK.

Zhang Yangfei contributed to this story.

Peking Opera strikes a chord in the UK

Yu Kuizhi and Li Shengsu, the top performers of Peking Opera, lead the cast in A River All Red in London on Saturday. [Photo/China Daily]


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