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From caves to the stage

By Cheng Yuezhu | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-05-23 07:31
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The Flying Apsaras musical premiered at Beijing's Poly Theatre from April 25 to 27. CHINA DAILY

A new musical takes the Mogao Grottoes as its setting and subject, innovatively blending genres, cultures and eras, as well as myth with reality, Cheng Yuezhu reports.

Several years ago, stage musical producer Li Dun spent seven days visiting the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, Northwest China's Gansu province, admiring the murals and learning about the Buddhist stories depicted.

One of the Jataka tales in Buddhist legends — that of Prince Sattva sacrificing himself to feed hungry tigers — moved him to tears. After a long time of gazing at the mural in an almost trance-like state, Li thought of producing a musical centered on the heritage site and those who devote their lives to its preservation.

"The tale of Prince Sattva embodies sacrifice and the great love of humanity. Following this thought, the idea for the theme song to be titled Sacrifice emerged," Li says.

"Sacrifice holds great significance for human societies. If we could all show a bit of humility and make some sacrifices, the world would be more peaceful and society would be infused with a touch of warmth."

Li contacted composer San Bao and playwright Guan Shan, with whom he had collaborated in 2007 on the acclaimed musical Butterflies. They had promised to work together again.

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