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Acclaimed author Pai Hsien-yung joins Kunqu programme to launch Chinese Opera Festival tonight (with photo)

     The Chinese Opera Festival 2012, presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, begins tonight (June 15). Opening the festival is the Suzhou Kunqu Opera Theatre from Jiangsu Province, which is performing for three nights at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre under the consultancy of internationally acclaimed author Pai Hsien-yung.

     For the festival's opening performance, Lu Jia, who trained under Liang Guyin, will perform with Yu Jiulin and Zhu Yingyuan in "The Story of the West Chamber (Southern Qu)", one of the best-loved Kunqu plays. The play requires the highest standards in terms of both its musical score and its dramatic acting. As always, the play's young couple and the lady's chambermaid will be loved by audience for their lively and intelligent characterisation.

     For the second-night performance (June 16), Zhou Xuefeng and Shen Fenying will perform "The Palace of Eternal Life", for which they trained under Cai Zhengren and Zhang Jingxian. The play, which was written by Hong Sheng during the Qing dynasty, is acclaimed as a dramatic and literary masterpiece, with its music and drama enhancing each other. The emperor character requires the actor to display an air of royal magnanimity but also the carefree jolliness of a talented artist. The character of the royal consort is equally challenging as she is expected to exhibit a seductive aura of propriety. The songs by the royal couple are a major attraction of this piece, telling a story of love set against the background of a time of change.

     For the excerpt performance on the third night (June 17), many of the classic Kunqu opera roles have been included and they will be performed by young stars of the theatre who have learned from their more exalted and experienced colleagues. For example, Tao Hongzhen and Qu Binbin learned "Lanke Mountain" from Zhang Jiqing and Yao Jikun, and Tang Rong and Shen Guofang learned "Accompany Jinniang for Thousands of Miles" from Hou Shaokui and Qiao Yanhe. Wang Shiyu, acclaimed as one of the best artists in Kunqu jinsheng roles, will partner with Wang Fang and Zhang Shizheng in performing the excerpt "Kneeling by the Pond" from "the Lioness Roars".

     As Pai said, "Kunqu is a theatrical art form that requires one-on-one mentoring. Through the training process, both the mentor and the mentee need to put in dedication, zeal, hard work and the sharing of experience. It is the one and only way to perpetuate the art. We can also say that through this Kunqu can see new light." These performances in June will surely serve to demonstrate the longevity of the Kunqu traditional performing art form.

     Details of the shows are as follows:

June 15 (Friday)
"The Story of the West Chamber (Southern Qu)"
Cast: Yu Jiulin, Lu Jia, Zhu Yingyuan

June 16 (Saturday)
"The Palace of Eternal Life"
Cast: Shen Fengying, Zhou Xuefeng

June 17 (Sunday)
Excerpts of "Cancelling the Birthday Celebrations" from "The Pavilion of Chanting in the Wind", "The Shock of an Ugly Face" from "The Mistake Caused by a Kite", "Forcing Her Hand for a Divorce" from "Lanke Mountain", "Accompanying Jingniang for Thousands of Miles", and "Kneeling by the Pond" from "The Lioness Roars"
Cast: Wang Shiyu (guest), Wang Fang, Zhang Shizheng (guest), Tao Hongzhen, Zhou Xuefeng, Shen Guofang, Tang Rong, Chen Lingling, Qu Binbin, Liu Chunlin

     All shows will be staged at 7.30pm at the Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Tickets priced at $350, $260, $180 and $100 are now available at all URBTIX outlets, on the Internet and by telephone credit card booking. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and their minders, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) recipients. (Limited tickets for students and CSSA recipients available on a first-come, first-served basis.) Please refer to the programme booklet for group and package booking discount schemes.

     For programme enquiries, please call 2268 7325, or visit For ticketing enquiries, please call 2734 9009. For telephone credit card bookings, please call 2111 5999. For Internet bookings, please visit

     The Chinese Opera Festival 2012 is one of the celebration programmes of the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The Festival runs from June 15 to August 5 and will present 10 Chinese opera programmes in different theatrical genres. Those performing for the Festival include Suzhou Kunqu Opera Theatre of Jiangsu Province, Anhui Huangmei Opera Theatre, Tang Mei Yun Taiwanese Opera Company, Jingkun Theatre, the Youth Experimental Theatre of the Shaanxi Traditional Opera Research Institute, Xiaobaihua Troupe of Hangzhou Yue Opera Theatre, No.1 Troupe of the China National Peking Opera Company, Tianjin Song Art Troupe and Gan Opera Theatre of Jiangxi Province. In addition, there will be a new Cantonese opera, "Justice Bao", performed by local Cantonese opera virtuosi.

Ends/Friday, June 15, 2012
Issued at HKT 20:40


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