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Festival to Show Kunqu Opera 'Ballad of Pipa'

SHANGHAI. September 18 -- Over the past month, Liang Guyin, a member with the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe, has been busy rehearsing the Kunqu Opera "Ballad of Pipa." according to today's China Daily.

"We intend to present the Kunqu Opera with its original flavour during the Berlin Asia-Pacific Weeks and the China Festival." said Chai Zhengren. director with the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe.

Adapted by Wang Renjie and directed by Huang Shuqin. the opera was first staged last April at Sanshan Guild Hall in Shanghai. which is an example of the traditional Chinese stage.

Unlike the Western proscenium arch stage, where there is a clear demarcation line separating the players from the audience. the conventional Chinese opera-house more closely resembles the Elizabethan stage on which Shakespeare's plays were presented.

The Elizabethan stage was made up of a canopied two-level performing area. boxes and the pit. There also were some acoustic devices to draw sound from the ceiling of the stage since those houses were more like open-air buildings.

This time, a traditional Chinese opera stage will be built at the theatre in Germany to give a realistic depiction of how Kunqu Opera was presented 500 years ago.

The five-part opera, based on a poem by the great Chinese poet Bai Juyi (AD 772-846), follows the story of Qianniang, a kind of geisha in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). who excels in playing the pipa, a Chinese musical instrument. Because of her skill and good appearance, the rich and the playboys vie for her love by sending her fancy gifts. When she is young, she lives a luxurious and dissipated life.

However, seven years later, when her beauty fades away, she has to marry Wu Yilang, a vulgar tea merchant, who values profits more than love and family. Just then, she meets the great poet Bai Juyi, who is shunned because of his frank criticisms to the emperor.

Qianniang tells her misfortunes to Bai Juyi by playing the pipa.

Greatly touched by her story, Bai Juyi writes down the prose "Ballad of Pipa."

Years later, when Bai Juyi meets Qianniang again, blind and broken, she makes a living by playing Bai Juyi's "Ballad of Pipa."

Liang Guyin, who stars as Qianniang,said that the role is actually a great challenge for her. "The role ranges in age from 18 to 68 years old." said Liang, who has been singing Kunqu Opera for nearly 50 years. "I have to study hard the change of psychology of the role."

Born in the 1940s in East China's Zhejiang Province, Liang started to learn Kunqu Opera in Shanghai at the age of eight. "I decided to learn Kunqu Opera because at that time the school provided living expenses."

At first, she did not know what Kunqu Opera was. But within six months, she came to love it. When she graduated from the Shanghai Opera School in 1961, she decided to devote herself to this art. To date, she has performed the main roles in such Kunqu Opera plays as "Pan Jinlian." "Zhuang Zi Teasing His Wife." "Dream of Butterfly" and "Story of West-wing Chamber."

"I feel that Kunqu Opera is part of my life." Liang said, "And I believe that Kunqu Opera is sure to have a bright future."

According to a recent survey, about 40 per cent of the Kunqu Opera audiences are young people. "As a Kunqu Opera singer, I am very patient with my audiences because I don't think I should compete with TV and films for the audiences."

Founded in 1978, the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe has contributed much to traditional Chinese art. To date, the troupe has produced more than 40 Kunqu Opera plays and staged 80 shows a year.

"Great progress has been made in preservation and production of the Kunqu Opera over the past two decades." Chai Zhengren said, "We intend to put more shows abroad to let more foreigners know about this beautiful art and promote traditional Chinese art."

-- source: Xinhua News Agency

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