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Peking Opera comes to London

China Daily | Updated: 2018-09-21 16:58

Some of the world's most revered Peking opera practitioners will give a series of workshops leading up to the London performances of the China National Peking Opera Company at Sadler's Wells Theater on Oct 19 and 20.

The series of events from Oct 11-20 will be held at the Sadler's Wells Theater, the British Library and Oxford's Ashmolean Museum, and will feature artists including actress Lisa Lu and a company of more than 60 performers from China's national Peking Opera troupe.

On Oct 11 at the British Library, Lisa Lu will host a panel discussion of her experience of more than 60 years performing across cultures and forms, along with esteemed Chinese filmmakers and thespians, including performers of Peking Opera.

The secrets behind a great opera, from make-up to music, will be revealed in artist-led workshops at the British Library on Oct 13 and 14. Stars of China's national opera company will perform a selection of Peking Opera's greatest hits, the best-known scenes from popular pieces. Highlights will include the sword dance finale of the film Farewell My Concubine (1993), which won prizes at Cannes and the Golden Globes.

Oxford's Ashmolean Museum will host a similar event on Oct 12.

Events culminate on Oct 19 and 20 at the Sadler's Wells Theater, with two performances of The Emperor and the Concubine, one of the most celebrated operas, as well as The Crossroads Inn & The Monkey King and The Leopard.

Performed by the leading troupe from Beijing, The Emperor and the Concubine is a love story championed by Mei Lanfang (1894-1961), a seminal figure in the opera world.

Born into a long line of performers in Beijing, Mei rose to fame for his innovative choreography and distinctive costumes after which the "Mei School" was named.

As a performer, Mei is best known playing female roles, bringing new attention to characters hitherto overlooked, from concubines to goddesses.

It is less well-known that, in the 1930s, Mei was one of the first to take Peking Opera on tour across the world, introducing his art to new audiences, from Hollywood to Soviet Moscow.

It seems fitting that Peking Opera travels abroad again to meet new foreign audiences with one of Mei's favorite operas, after a precedent he set nearly a century ago.

Alexandra Boulton in London contributed to this story

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