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Rare opportunity to see Chinese regional opera

The long history of Chinese opera has given rise to numerous regional branches of opera, each of which is imprinted with the distinctive local culture of the region. Apart from presenting the popular and well-known Peking opera, Kunqu and Yue opera, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department also regularly presents a wide variety of Chinese opera, to arouse public interest in other traditional Chinese performing arts. Following the successful presentation of "Chinese Operas with an Ancient Lineage" last year, the "Chinese Regional Opera Series" will feature Hui opera, Yang opera and Shao opera from July to September this year.

Hui opera is one of the oldest forms of theatre in China, with a history of more than 300 years. It has established a complete artistic format with Chinese opera's major components – the vocal style, the set tunes and the percussive scores which portray the psychological state of different characters. Particular emphasis is placed on the narrative, the highly formalised movements and stage design. The Anhui Beijing Opera Theatre, in its coming performance in Hong Kong, will include several experts in popular Hui opera. The troupe is the only professional theatre group that encompasses research, teaching and performance of Hui opera in China today. It has compiled and recorded close to 1,000 opera titles, and built a valuable archive of singing styles, music and masks. It has also groomed about 100 Hui opera actors. The troupe has staged many well-preserved works in the traditional repertory, including "Flooding the Army", "The Drunken Royal Concubine", and "The Legend of the White Snake".

Yang opera is one of the regional operatic genres in Jiangsu. It developed from the "flower drum" opera of Yangzhou and ritual performances offering thanks to gods and incorporated other song types of the area. In the early 1930s, it became popular and formed its own character. It was formally named "Yang opera" in the early 1950s. The Yang Opera Troupe of Jiangsu is scheduled to perform in Hong Kong. For years, the troupe has recruited some of the best known artists of the time – Gao Xiuying, Hua Suqin, Li Mingying, Zhu Yulan, Wu Huiming, Yang Guozhu, Miao Yong, Hou Changrong, Li Xia. The troupe has created or staged many outstanding productions including "A Centenarian Commander", "To Love or To Hate", "A Trial for His Own Son at the Border", "Three Knives", "Lady Ma" and "The Wild Goose as Messenger".

Shao opera takes its name from Shaoxing in Zhejiang. Early Shao opera was often performed as ritual performances at temple fairs. They were seasonal, with "lantern shows" in the first lunar month, "thanksgiving to the gods" in the second, "blessings to the seedlings" in the third, and so on. Stock themes include praising the good and punishing the evil, repressing the tyrants and helping the helpless, fighting the enemies and guarding the land from bandits. The Shao Opera Troupe of Zhejiang is best known for its conservation and original performance of Shao opera. It has performed "The Monkey King Thrice Beats the Boney Ghost", "Fighting for Life or Death", "The Family Rite" and "Ghost of a Woman Who Hangs Herself" in Beijing. It has also toured Japan, Korea, Denmark, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Details of the performances are as follows:
Anhui Beijing Opera Theatre
July 22 to 24 (Tuesday to Thursday)

Yang Opera Troupe of Jiangsu
August 29 to 31 (Friday to Sunday)

Shao Opera Troupe of Zhejiang
September 25 to 27 (Thursday to Saturday)

Lyrics and dialogue will have Chinese and English subtitles.

All shows will be at 7.30pm at the Theatre, Hong Kong City Hall. Tickets priced from $100 to $240 are now available at all URBTIX outlets. Half-price concessions will be granted to senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. (Limited tickets for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients are available on a first-come, first-served basis.) For package purchase discount, please refer to the programme leaflet for details.

For programme enquiries, call 2268 7325; for ticketing enquiries and reservations, call 2734 9009. Internet bookings are available at . For credit card telephone bookings, call 2111 5999. Visit for more information on the programme.

Ends/Monday, June 16, 2008
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