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Masters of Peking Opera share martial arts and masterpieces with UK audiences

The Emperor and the Concubine

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THIS October, internationally renowned China National Peking Opera Company (CNPOC) will present UK audiences with the astonishing opportunity to experience the quintessence of Chinese culture.

They will bring two of the world’s finest exponents of the art form, the legendary stars Yu Kuizhi and Li Shengsu as part of a troupe of 65 performers who are set to fill the stage at Sadler’s Wells with two spectacular shows.

The Emperor and the Concubine is the beautiful love story championed by Peking Opera Master Mei Lanfang. It showcases perfectly the masterful art of Peking Opera with its elegant and enchanting dance, song, music and drama and represents the outstanding features of Mei School.

The romantic story is based on an historic event in Tang Dynasty when the Emperor Tang Ming Huang who was mourning the death of his adored concubine, the beautiful Yang Yuhuan, a Taoist Nun. They greatly entranced each other, and such was the strength of his passion that the Emperor began to neglect the affairs of state. Consequently the An Lushan rebels saw the opportunity and rose up to conquer the land. A necessary fate follows with a heart-breaking twist.

This production combines the greatest elements of the Peking Opera art form and is presented at the highest artistic standing of the Mei School by the China National Peking Opera Company.

Tickets – £85/£65/£55/£35/£25.

Dates and Times: October 19 at 7.30pm and October 20 at 7.30pm.

Running Time: Act 1 – 65 minutes, Act 2 – 55 minutes.

On the afternoon of Saturday, October 20 at 2.30pm, the CNPOC will showcase the spectacular mime, acrobatic and comedy skills of Peking Opera in a double bill of short mime and martial arts plays, The Crossroad Inn and The Monkey King and The Leopard.

The Crossroad Inn

The Crossroad Inn, a short martial arts play, is famous for its humour and elaborate ‘fight in the dark’ scene. The expert mime and martial art skills will amaze and delight the audience as two amusing characters attempt to find and fight each other in the dark on a stage bathed in light.

The second half of this double bill features the mythical folklore story of the legendary Monkey King and his buddies who seek justice for the villagers who are being bullied by the Evil Leopard Spirit. The story, underpinned by the traditional Chinese value of ‘Praising the Virtue and Punishing the Vice’, highlights the stunning acrobatic skills as the Monkey King and his friends battle the wicked Leopard Spirit.

Tickets – £55/£45/£35/£25/£15.

Achieving the high levels of performance skills required in the art of Peking Opera requires a lifelong dedication. Most of the artists train from a very young age at opera school before becoming an apprentice and learning from the masters of this incredible art form. It takes a very special dedication and passion to endure the intensive training to become a profession artist and not everyone is guaranteed success.

Despite the spectacular costumes, face painting make-up and stunning stage craft, Peking Opera represents the essence of traditional Chinese values – whatever you would like to achieve, you must work hard through sweat and tears and resist material temptation.

All three performances are presented by Sinolink Productions, a London-based production company specialising in Chinese arts, culture and performances, created to connect Chinese culture to British audiences. Their well established and close links with the world of arts and entertainment in China allow them to continue to bring the best of China’s art and culture to the world.

Kevin Zhang, director, Sinolink Productions said: “It’s a very exciting time for Chinese arts and culture in the UK, as appetite among British audiences continues to flourish. We’re proud to see the return for the fourth year the exquisite talent of the Chinese National Peking Opera Company to London, and it’s an honour to delight and inspire audiences with an art form they have rare opportunity to indulge in. Once again, the stage will be filled with an array of exciting acrobatics, superlative vocals and music amidst the drama of love versus patriotism, a fight against oppressors and the comedy of mistaken identity.”

Additional events surrounding these performances will be announced shortly.