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April
Budding artists to perform in Kunqu opera "The Peony Pavilion"
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Produced by internationally acclaimed author Pai Hsien-yung and performed by young artists, the Kunqu opera "The Peony Pavilion" will be staged from May 21 to 23 (Friday to Sunday) at 7.30pm at the Auditorium of the Shatin Town Hall. The full story, divided into three parts, will be performed on three separate nights.

The performances are presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

"The Peony Pavilion" is a love story. Du Liniang dies in her quest for the lover in her dream. A scholar, Liu Mengmei, expresses his admiration for Liniang's beauty and her spirit is invoked. They become a couple despite the rift between the worlds of the living and the dead. But no sooner do they begin their new married life than they again have to separate. Liu is treated as a tomb raider by Liniang's father and is tortured and beaten. The couple reunite after Liu comes first in the national civil examination.

Renowned Kunqu artist Wang Shiyu is the artistic director and production director while Zhang Jiqing is the opera's artistic consultant. Outstanding young artists Shen Fengying and Yu Jiulin, from the Suzhou Kunqu Opera Theatre of Jiangsu, act as Du Liniang and Liu Mengmei.

To producer Pai, the main attraction of this production is its talented young artists who will appeal strongly to a young audience.

"While the traditional aesthetics of Kunqu will be retained to the best of our ability, we have also made use of the modern stage facilities and equipment to enhance the dramatic effects. We hope that this ancient gem of traditional opera will be further developed on the modern stage of the 21st Century." Pai said.

Pai Hsien-yung has been keenly interested in Kunqu at a young age. His short story "Wandering in the Garden", "Waking from a Dream" was inspired by the Kunqu Opera "The Peony Pavilion". He has been committed to promoting this art form for more than 20 years. Actively involved in introducing it to the younger generation, Pai has been giving public talks in collaboration with Kunqu artists of Hong Kong and Taiwan. Producing "The Peony Pavilion" with a young cast has been his dream of many years, and he is delighted to see it come true.

Shen Fengying was trained in the "guimendan" (high-born lady) roles under the tutelage of Zhang Jiqing and Liu Jiyan, famous Kunqu artists. She has won the Performance Award at the first Kunqu Arts Festival in China, and the Silver Award at the Accreditation Showcase for Young to Middle-aged Performers in Professional Companies in Suzhou.

Trained in the "jinsheng" (scholar) roles, Yu Jiulin was coached by Wang Shiyu and Shi Xiaomei, famous Kunqu artists. He has won the Performance Award at the first Kunqu Arts Festival in China, and the Gold Award at the Accreditation Showcase for Young to Middle-aged Performers in Professional Companies in Suzhou.

Established in 1956, the Suzhou Kunqu Opera Theatre of Jiangsu was formerly the Su and Kunqu Opera Troupe of Jiangsu. In 2001, the Su and Kunqu Opera Troupe of Jiangsu had grown and was renamed the Suzhou Kunqu Opera Theatre of Jiangsu. Its famous repertoire includes "The Peony Pavilion", "The Story of the White Rabbit", "The Story of the Wooden Hairpin", "The Story of the Hairpin and the Bracelet", "Fifteen Strings of Cash" and close to 270 excerpts of the traditional Kunqu repertory. The company has made highly successful tours to Italy, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Tickets priced at $320, $240, $180 and $100 are available at URBTIX outlets. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens, people with disabilities, 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). For purchases of tickets for three parts, a 20% discount is offered. A 10% discount is offered to Friends of LCSD performing venues. For programme enquiries, call 2268 7323, and for ticketing enquiries and reservations, call 2734 9009. For Internet bookings, go to http://www.urbtix.gov.hk . For credit card telephone bookings, call 2111 5999. Visit http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/cp for more information on the programme.

Ends/Friday, April 2, 2004
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