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Opera group to perform classic China narrative

by Eriko Arita

The China National Peking Opera Company (CNPOC) is performing “The Water Margin — The Vows of Song Jiang and the Heroes of Mount Liang Shan Po” across Japan until Dec. 10.

The style of Peking opera, which is also known as Beijing opera, has existed for more than 200 years as a form of traditional Chinese theater that combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics.

The CNPOC is one of China’s national performance arts-related ensembles, which is directly under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture. Since its foundation in 1955, CNPOC has produced more than 500 traditional and modern dramas using a variety of different subjects and genres, according to the company.

The Water Margin (Shui hu zhuan in Chinese) is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.

The novel is set during the Northern Song Dynasty in the 12th century. The storyline centers on the tale of a group of bandits who dare to fight against corrupt bureaucrats. The group’s leader is Song Jiang. He and his fellow 108 bandits, who are from various backgrounds, have all been victims of corruption. They gather in the mountain fortresses of Liang Shan Po, located on the outskirts of the capital city in the story, and rise up to bring salvation to the people of the city.

The 64 actors performing the drama include Zhao Yongwei, one of the leading actors of Peking opera who specializes in warrior-type roles.

The cast also includes Japanese actor Yuta Ishiyama. Ishiyama studied in Zhongguo Juqu Xueyuan, the only university in China that teaches Peking opera. He joined CNPOC as its first non-Chinese actor in 2001.

CNPOC’s Japan tour is one of many events celebrating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. The tour is organized by the Min-On Concert Association and supported by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Tokyo.

The performances will be in Chinese with Japanese subtitles.

The opera company perform in Ichikawa, Chiba, on Nov. 8; in Nagano on Nov. 10; in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Pref., on Nov. 12; in Yokohama on Nov. 17; in Niigata City on Nov. 20; in Nakano, Tokyo, on Nov. 25-26; in Kobe on Dec. 1; in Kyoto on Dec. 4 and in Osaka on Dec. 9-10. There are more performances in other cities in Japan. Tickets cost ¥6,900 but prices may vary depending on the venue. For more information, call Min-On at 03-5362-3440 or visit www.min-on.or.jp/