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New Faces of Peking Opera


Text by Liu Haile

In an era when traditional art forms find increasing difficulties attracting audiences, it’s rare for a new Peking Opera production to attract wide attention, let alone stir up controversy, as was the case with the recent revival of Farewell My Concubine. Perhaps the opera’s incorporation of so many new elements that deviate from orthodox Peking Opera is to blame: a red-faced king of the Chu, Concubine Yu wrapped in brilliant attire, a real horse on stage, lute players wearing backless cheongsams, walk-ons performing modern dance, stunning visual effects, and modern folk music.

Premiering at Beijing’s Reignwood Theater at the end of February 2012, Farewell My Concubine was adapted from a Peking Opera classic of the same name, which was developed by the prestigious artist Mei Lanfang in 1922. The artists responsible for the modern adaptation are Chinese-American director Chen Shizheng and his team of choreographers and costume designers from Germany, Britain, and the United States.

Old Tune, New Look

Before the curtain even rose, a huge poster hanging in the Baroque theater caught the eye of the first few rows, depicting a bare-faced Concubine Yu leaning against Xiang Yu, the king of the Chu, who was heavily made up.

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