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Kunqu Opera

Kunqu Opera, Shanghai ToursKunqu Opera is one of the most popular forms of traditional opera in China. It evolved from the Kunshan (a small town south of the Yangtze River) melody, and dominated Chinese theater from the 16th to the 18th centuries. In some quarters, Kunqu Opera is regarded as the ancestor of all opera in China. It's even been described as one of the three sources of world opera. Kunqu Opera, it's also said, has at one time or another, embraced every influence imaginable, from music and dance, to poetry and the world of the spirit and even the very soul of the Chinese nation. All of which makes it hard to imagine that there was a time when Kunqu Opera completely disappeared.

Kunqu Opera is acknowledged as an elegant opera in terms of music, recitation, and the performers' movement. It is foremost acclaimed as "watermill song" because of its soft arias and the graceful movement of its performers. Carrying forward the tradition of ancient poetry and common speech, the art is also of very high literary value.

Kunqu Opera, Shanghai ToursKunqu has its own distinctive tunes. Its famous music is much softer and similar from play to play. The music instruments that used for Kunqu is different from Beijing Opera. Perfectly matching the poetry style of the play, bamboo flutes plays the lead part with other Chinese traditional musical instruments such as vertical bamboo flutes (xiao), Sheng, Er Hu, Pipa and the like to form the accompaniment.

Kunqu has poetical style of wording styles. The dialogue is more poetical and refined. Most of the stories in Kunqu play is romantic and rare to have any military roles or acrobatic actions. The performers attached great importance to clear recitation, correct singing, and pure tunes. Meanwhile, the composers wrote the musical scores after working out the tunes, and the songs were written in seven-character or ten-character lines. The dancing and movement of a role is gentle and closely connected with the player's singing.

Kunqu Opera, Shanghai ToursPlays of Qunqu that continue to be famous today, including The Jade Hairpin, The Story in Handan, Shiwu Guan, The Purple Hairpin, The Righteous Hero, Changsheng Dian (Hall), Yangguan (Yang Pass), Sanzui (Three Times ebrieties), The Broken Bridge, A Fond Dream, The Story of Kite, The Peony Pavilion and The Peach Blossom Fan etc., were originally written for the Kunqu stage. In addition, many classical Chinese novels, such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin and Journey to the West were adapted very early into dramatic pieces.

Today, Kunqu is performed professionally in seven Mainland Chinese cities: Shanghai (Shanghai Kunqu Theatre), Suzhou (Suzhou Kunqu Theatre), Nanjing (Jiangsu Province Kunqu Theatre), Beijing (Northern Kunqu Theatre), Chenzhou (Hunan Kunqu Theatre), Yongjia County/Wenzhou (Yongjia Kunqu Theatre) and Hangzhou (Zhejiang Province Kunqu Theatre), as well as in Taipei. Non-professional opera societies are active in many other cities in China and abroad, and opera companies occasionally tour.

On May 18th, 2001, UNESCO designated Kunqu Opera as a masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. These years, Kunqu has attracted many tourists who are interested in Chinese culture.

Questions & Comments

  • Frank Zhen on July 15, 2012, 6:18 pm

    Hi, I will come to Shanghai for the 1st time holiday on August 18 for 4 days and hoping to watch a Kunqu performance. Could you tell me if there is any show during these time at the Shanghai Kunqu Theatre? Many thanks! Frank Zhen _______________________

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