French director hails 20 years of ties with Chinese operas

XINHUA | Updated: 2024-02-19 07:31
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French theater director Patrick Sommier (left) receives a Great Wall Friendship Award from a representative of the Beijing government in 2010. [Photo/Xinhua]

PARIS — French theater director Patrick Sommier is devoted to passing on the true meaning of Chinese operas which, according to him, are an assembly of all art forms, to the French public.

On the occasion of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France in 2004, Sommier was invited to collaborate on a joint project with the Beijing Vocational College of Opera and Arts to take Peking Opera to France.

Sommier says that when he arrived in China, like many other Europeans, he had plenty of cliches about Chinese opera, "magnificent costumes, multicolored makeup, and extraordinary acrobatic movements".

The beauty of Peking Opera quickly captured his heart, he says.

Recalling his first collaboration with the BVCOA, Sommier says he was impressed by the vigor of the actors behind the makeup and costumes, and the characters of incredible strength from the Chinese classics that reminded him of Greek tragedies.

He was also touched by the Chinese professors who passed their knowhow to their students by acting with them, which is different to the way things are done in the French theater world, he adds.

"In China, opera is an art requiring lifelong devotion and actors are the embodiment of the opera."

Sommier began delving into different performance forms and advocated for introducing traditional Chinese operas to the French audience.

Following his suggestion, the BVCOA staged a series of innovative performances in 2005, the first half featuring professors and students collaborating onstage without makeup or costumes, the second half showcasing students performing classics like Farewell My Concubine in a traditional manner.

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