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Kabuki master Bando Tamasaburo's Sino-Japanese version of The Peony Pavilion

     Bando Tamasaburo, Japan's most celebrated "onnagata" (an actor who specialises in female roles), will perform with the Suzhou Kunqu Opera Theatre of Jiangsu Province in the phenomenal Kunqu opera "The Peony Pavilion" (Sino-Japanese version), to be held from November 19 to 21. Due to overwhelming demand, all tickets have sold out.

     This rare theatrical production traces Du Liniang's quest for love in the world of the living as well as the dead, showcasing seven scenes from the original play. They are: "Stroll in the Garden", "The Interrupted Dream‧The Flower Fairies", "The Portrait", "The Soul Departs", "Talking to the Portrait", "Union with the Ghost" and "Resurrection".

     Bando Tamasaburo is an iconic figure on Japan's Kabuki stage today, and has gained worldwide renown for his performances. His grandfather, Kanya Morita XIII, performed with the legendary Mei Lanfang in Beijing in 1926. In the 1980s, Tamasaburo learned the Peking Opera, The Drunken Royal Concubine, from Mei's son, Mei Baojiu. He then applied Peking Opera technique to the Kabuki work, Emperor Ming and Lady Yang. In 2007, he began studying the role of Du Liniang, the female lead in The Peony Pavilion, with a number of famous Kunqu opera artists. While following Kunqu tradition, Tamasaburo succeeded in externalising the classic heroine's inner emotions with a feeling that transcends cognition, a quality that typifies Japanese theatre.

     This mesmerising Sino-Japanese collaboration featuring Tamasaburo's skilful and delicate interpretation of Du won critical acclaim in both China and Japan. For this festival, Bando Tamasaburo is joined by outstanding young performer Yu Jiulin playing Liu Mengmei.

     One of Japan's "Living National Treasures", Tamasaburo first appeared on the Kabuki stage at the age of seven. With a career spanning more than five decades, he is a celebrated onnagata in Kabuki, and was described as a "miracle" by the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima. He has won international acclaim for his touring performances in the West. Apart from Kabuki, he has also been actively engaged in new artistic ventures, such as choreography in a dance production with Maurice Béjart and Mikhail Baryshnikov, directing and starring in the production "The Sun Goddess" with Japanese taiko drum group, Kodo, and a film with Yo-Yo Ma called Inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach's "Suite No.5 for Unaccompanied Cello - Struggle for Hope".

     Established in 1956, the Suzhou Kunqu Opera Theatre of Jiangsu Province was formerly the Su and Kunqu Opera Troupe of Jiangsu Province, and adopted this new name when it was expanded in 2001. The troupe has been the cradle of many outstanding performers since its inception, with many becoming winners of coveted national and international awards, including the "Plum Blossom" Award for Chinese Theatre and the "Award for Promoting Kunqu Opera" presented by UNESCO. It has also sought the expertise of veteran Kunqu artists by inviting them as artistic advisers, in a bid to salvage, restore, promote and develop the art of Kunqu. The result is significant, with many productions, such as the Sino-Japanese version of "The Peony Pavilion", the youth version of "The Peony Pavilion", "The Palace of Eternal Life" and "The Story of the Jade Hairpin" attracting considerable attention both in China and internationally.

     The Kunqu opera, "The Peony Pavilion" (Sino-Japanese version) produced by Beijing Menghuatingyuen Culture Media Co., is the closing programme of the "New Vision Arts Festival" organised by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. "The Peony Pavilion" will be staged from November 19 to 21 at Kwai Tsing Theatre Auditorium.

Ends/Wednesday, November 17, 2010


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