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Young performers revive Peking opera

Reporter: Zhang Song 丨 CCTV.com

08-23-2016 04:20 BJT

It was a busy night for Peking opera professionals and fans on Sunday. Established artists staged a special concert at Chang’an Grand Theater to commemorate the 115th birth anniversary of Peking opera maestro Ma Lianliang. Not far away from the theater at Fortune Plaza, the winners of the 2016 Young Peking Opera Performers Challenge were announced.

Young performers revive Peking opera

Young performers revive Peking opera

Singing Italian opera classic “Time To Say Goodbye” Peking opera style or rocking the old art form with rap, young performers at the award ceremony of the 2016 Young Peking Opera Performers Challenge add a refreshing twist to this cultural treasure. In an effort to narrow the distance between youngsters and the traditional art form, fashion and modern elements are mixed into the show.  

“I started learning Peking opera since I was eight. It was hard at the beginning but later I was enchanted by Peking opera. It has become part of me. It’s my belief. What I’ve been doing now is to attract more young people like my age to learn more about Peking Opera with a helping hand of modern tech and fashion elements for the contest’s promotion and award ceremony,” said Liu Zhen, director of 2016 Young Peking Opera Performers Challenge.

The promotion worked well through social media and online interaction. The click rate of the challenge’s official website almost reached 15 million, and it also garnered more than 2 million online votes for the 58 young contestants. The performers were divided into two teams. And every two nights, each team presented the same repertoire. Over two weeks, these young performers staged 14 consecutive concerts in Beijing.

This year’s challenge also saw great support from some of the country’s established Peking Opera artists. One of them is 67-year-old Tan Xiaozeng. His family, for seven generations now, has been involved in Peking opera ever since his great-great-grandfather Tan Xinpei established the Tan School of “Laosheng,” or the role of elderly male.

“Ever since Peking Opera was born some two centuries ago, the art form has always been adjusting itself to the changes of times. However, no matter how it changes, the art form’s family name is ‘Peking,’” said Peking Opera artist Tan Xiaozeng.

“Tonight’s event is a bold attempt catering for the youngsters. We are keen to support the organizer's effort in promoting Peking Opera and their experiment with mixing modern elements into it. But if they go too far, we'll also help them adjust and return to the inner core of the art genre.”

In the 60s, Peking opera was still at the height of its popularity in China. And it was that way over the last two centuries. Today, however, the art form is facing the great challenge of trying to attract young listeners, most of whom treat it as merely a traditional symbol of China.

For years, industry professionals and Peking Opera lovers have never stopped their efforts to revive the traditional art form. And it is truly the mix of the old and the new that might just pique the interest of the younger generation.

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