Classic play gets act together

Updated: Mar 27, 2023 By Chen Nan China Daily Print
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Full 55-act version of The Peony Pavilion hits the world on nationwide tour, Chen Nan reports.

One of the most-performed Kunqu Opera plays by Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) playwright Tang Xianzu is The Peony Pavilion. Some of its most famous acts, such as Walking in the Garden and The Dream Interrupted, are frequently staged by Kunqu Opera troupes in China because of their beautiful singing, poetic lyrics and graceful dances, which lend them popular appeal to audiences of many ages.

Traditionally, the play is shown only in parts due to its long length, but last year, the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe staged all 55 acts of the play in an eight-hour, three-part marathon. This full-length version of The Peony Pavilion has been touring around the country ever since, with 12 performances in 18 days.

From March 8 to 10, it was staged at the China National Opera House in Beijing, the first time the total 55-act performance was given in the capital.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Kunqu Opera performers to perform all the 55 acts of the classic work. It's also a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the audience to watch The Peony Pavilion in its near-entirety," says director Guo Xiaonan.

According to Guo, who rearranged Tang's script based on an adaptation by the late playwright Wang Renjie, the original plan was to stage the eight-hour-long production in one day, but the company decided to present it on three consecutive nights.

"A total of 55 acts allow the audience to develop a full understanding of The Peony Pavilion and what Tang was trying to express," says Guo.

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