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October
"The Hidden Concubine": Peking Opera through contemporary eyes

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In "The Hidden Concubine", the Contemporary Legend Theatre of Taiwan transcends tradition, transforming a "warhorse" of the Peking repertoire into a sophisticated Chinese opera that is modern in every respect.

"The Hidden Concubine" reinterprets for a contemporary audience the provocative, mesmerising love story of a bandit, his concubine and her lover.

It will be staged at 7.30pm on October 24 and 25 (Friday and Saturday) at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre.

The production is a tour de force for Wu Hsing-kuo. Acclaimed for his performances in Chinese opera, films and TV, and as a dancer with the famous Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, Wu not only directs "The Hidden Concubine" but also takes on both of the opera's dramatically contrasting male roles, those of the bandit and the lover.

Wu has always been a pioneer in bringing new and revolutionary elements to the refined style of Peking opera. More than a mere performance, audiences can expect an object lesson in how traditional art can be rendered relevant.

The set of the drama was designed by famous Taiwan architect Deng Kuen-yen. Deng demonstrates his exceptional creativity and sheer perfection of aesthetics in literature and arts of the Sung Dynasty in his set design. The core design concept is derived from the unrestrained nature of the cursive calligraphy of the Sung Dynasty, with a mixture of colours in gold and black generating a bright but mysterious ambiance on the stage.

Adapted from the classic "The Water Margin", "The Hidden Concubine" tells the story of Song Jiang who, before moving to Liang Shan to be the leader of 108 outlaws, takes the young and pretty Yan Xijiao as his concubine. No sooner has he installed Yan in a luxurious residence than she begins an affair with his apprentice, Zhang Wenyuan. When Yan threatens to expose Song's illegal dealings with the outlaws, the bandit slays her with his sword. Yan must return from the nether world to the world of mortals in order to capture Zhang and be with him forever...

The Contemporary Legend Theatre of Taiwan (CLT) was founded in 1986. From the start, it has strived to incorporate in its productions the singing, acting, enunciation and martial arts peculiar to the traditional theatre, in this way defining a new course for modern Chinese theatre. Works like "The Kingdom of Desire", "War and Eternity", "Yin Yang River", "The Last Days of Emperor Li Yu", "Medea" and "King Lear" have proved a hit with audiences. The company has toured in England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong.

Wu Hsing-kuo, artistic director/director/actor of "The Hidden Concubine", is the founder and artistic director of the CLT, principal dancer of the Tai Gu Tales Dance Theatre and associate professor at Taipei National University of the Arts. He studied at the Fu Hsing Chinese Opera School and the Theatre Department of the Chinese Culture University, specialising in cavalier and aged male roles. The Times of London once proclaimed Wu's affinities with Britain's greatest stage actor, Laurence Olivier.

Set designer Deng Kuen-yen graduated from the Taiwan Provincial Pingtung Institute of Agriculture, who also sat in at the lectures of the Department of Architecture of the Tunghai University of Taiwan for two years. This was followed by 12 years working in architectural design under the leading figure in the field, Hang Pao-the. He set up his own company and opened some of the most famous and trendy lifestyle spots in Taiwan. Later, he decided to take 10 years of retreat from his work. After a decade, he returned to his work and his clarion call to save the old barns and warehouses along the Suzhou River made him an international figure.

A post-performance talk in Putonghua will be held at 3pm on October 26 (Sunday) in AC1, Level 4, Administration Building, Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Admission is free. A set exhibition will also be held at the foyer of Hong Kong Cultural Centre from October 14 to 20.

"The Hidden Concubine" is part of the "Legends of China" Festival organised by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

The production is presented in Putonghua, with Chinese and English surtitles. Tickets priced at $280, $220, $160 and $100 are available at all URBTIX outlets.

Half-price tickets are offered to senior citizens, full-time students, people with disabilities and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Recipients. For group bookings and packages, discounts of up to 20% apply.

Telephone reservations can be made on 2734 9009. For credit card telephone bookings, call 2111 5999. Internet bookings can be made at www.urbtix.gov.hk.

Programme details can be found in the brochures obtainable at URBTIX outlets or at www.legendsofchina.gov.hk.

For programme enquiries, call 2370 1044.

Ends/Tuesday, October 14, 2003

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