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06 December 2021, 09:39

Romantic drama

Photo: Chinadaily.com.cn
Photo: Chinadaily.com.cn

SHANGHAI, 6 December (BelTA - China Daily). - Chinese edition of French musical Romeo and Juliet begins national tour, Zhang Kun reports in Shanghai.

The Chinese production of Romeo and Juliet, a musical created by French composer Gerard Presgurvic, has embarked on a tour of the country after its premiere at the SAIC Shanghai Culture Square on Nov 26.

The musical is the first production of Shanghai Culture Square's New Year hits series, with 25 performances scheduled to run until Dec 19. Two weeks of shows will be staged at the Tianqiao Performing Arts Center in Beijing. It will run for one week at the Hangzhou Grand Theater in Zhejiang province and for two weeks at the Poly Grand Theater in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.

This is the first Chinese production of the French musical based on William Shakespeare's classic tragedy about two young lovers from rival families. It was premiered in 2001, and has been staged in more than a dozen foreign languages. The show has toured more than 40 countries in the past 20 years, watched by more than 12 million people.

"Were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic, we would not have acquired the copyright for the Chinese production so quickly," Fei Yuanhong, deputy director of Shanghai Culture Square, said at the news conference before the show's premiere in Shanghai.

The pandemic has made traveling difficult. This has pushed Chinese productions to meet domestic audience demand, and the French musical production company granted the copyright for a Chinese edition.

In 2012, Shanghai Culture Square introduced the French musical in Shanghai, when 20 performances massively impressed audiences, and it went on three rounds of tours in China in the two following years.

Fei attributes the musical's success in China to the "great literary classic and tragic love story between two beautiful young people, and more importantly, the strong emotional expressions in the production coincide with Chinese audiences' aesthetic expectations for musical theater".

The venue has successfully presented a variety of musical productions from abroad in the past 10 years, and Fei says Presgurvic's Romeo and Juliet was the most suitable French production to be translated into Chinese as the show's "songs, dances and performances, all score high".

The Shanghai venue and Beijing-based Joyway Culture Co jointly kicked off the Chinese production last year, soon after acquiring the copyright from the French production team.

Carl Portal, the choreographer of the French production, was invited to direct the Chinese edition. The schedule was tight, and the Chinese production, consisting of four groups of performers and dozens of dancers, seemed especially challenging for Portal, when he first landed on the job in China. However, on the second day of rehearsal, he became more confident he says. "I saw dancers coming back well practiced and rapidly improved, as soon as they understood what I wanted."

The Chinese dancers were trained and rehearsing with them, he says he felt like "a child at Christmas, with each of them unpacking their Christmas gifts for me".

Portal praises a Chinese dancer, who portrays "death" in the musical, saying as she is trained in traditional dance, she is able to present the role with a poetic touch, embodying the sadness and cruelty of the destruction of youth and love at its full blossom in the musical.

Romeo and Juliet is such an emotionally charged musical that after seeing it countless times, Portal says he is still moved watching the rehearsal of the Chinese edition, and hopes his production can take audiences on an "emotional rollercoaster" and that they "enjoy the ride".

Qiao Jing, president of Joyway, says the decision to have four pairs of Romeo and Juliet for the Chinese production was to "achieve the highest quality possible, and hope to create a Chinese musical that can run a long way" by choosing "the best cast we could find". She says she hopes the show will tour "from first-tier cities to the fourth" in the country and move anybody with "faith in true love".

Ayanga, a singer from the country's ethnic Mongolian community, is arguably the most renowned star in the production.

Damien Sargue, who portrays the role of Romeo in the French production, said during his concert tour in China in 2018 that Ayanga would be perfect for the role in Chinese.

Performing the role with three other actors was a great experience, Ayanga told the media before the Shanghai premiere. "We could compare notes and discover new aspects about our character."

Each of the four pairs of Romeo and Juliet brings some distinctive personality to the performance, so that "you might want to come back and see a few more times", Qiao says.

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