SHANGHAI, 18 November (BelTA - China Daily). - The Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe will launch a new production of Peony Pavilion that will be performed at the Shanghai Grand Theater from Nov 19 to 20.
The most celebrated masterpiece in traditional Chinese opera, Peony Pavilion, a Kunqu Opera piece, has been adapted many times over the past decades, says Gu Haohao, director of the company.
The upcoming production will present all 55 acts of the play over three sessions, spanning eight hours.
Director Guo Xiaonan rearranged the script written by Tang Xianzu (1550-1616), based on an adaptation of the same by the late playwright Wang Renjie, and noted that the play reflects the confrontation between society and Confucian doctrines dominant in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Peony Pavilion tells the story of a young woman named Du Liniang who dies of love sickness after dreaming of an amorous encounter with a man named Liu Mengmei. Encouraged by the governor of the underworld, the ghost of the woman appears when Liu stays in the garden where Du is buried.
Liu excavates her from the grave and has her resurrected. He has to prove to Du Liniang's father, Du Bao, a high-ranking official, that his daughter has come back to life, and that he will be a worthy son-in-law.
"Many of the previous theater productions focused on the love story between Liu and Du, but I believe the third session is extremely important," Guo said between rehearsals ahead of the premiere.
"All the loose ends are picked up and characters reach the final destination, where love wins over moral doctrines, as well as the strict barrier between life and death."
The leading characters will be performed by young artists — Luo Chenxue and Hu Weilu — a move that Cai Zhengren, a renowned artist and the former director of Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe, hails as a "bold and wise" decision.
Cai explains that the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe has nurtured several generations of Kunqu artists and that continued support to young artists is important to the company.
Hu is a female performer who takes on young male roles. Such cross-gender performances have become rare in the past decades in China's folk opera scene.
Yue Meiti, a renowned female artist who plays male roles, has witnessed the significant progress of Hu during the eight-month rehearsal period for the new production.
"Hu tends to be quiet and reserved and keeps much of her thoughts to herself. I've seen her grow into the character through the rehearsals, thanks to the guidance of director Guo".
Hu is one of the few women prodigies Yue has mentored in recent years.
"She really liked the style of male roles, and chose to focus her training in the field," Yue says.
"I also have other female students, who majored in male characters by chance, or simply because they grew quite tall, and have difficulty finding matching boys to perform duet scenes."