Traditional Chinese opera gets a facelift

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A new version of a classic Chinese opera will be performed by an opera troupe in central China's Hunan province Friday night in another instance of traditional Chinese art undergoing radical changes to appeal to contemporary audiences.

The reimagined version of "Liu Hai Cuts Firewood" is due to debut at Hunan's Huaguxi ("Flower Drum Opera") Inheritance and Protection Center Friday night, according to Wang Yangjuan, deputy head of the Hunan Xiang Opera Theater.

"Huaguxi" is a form of Chinese opera that originated in Hunan during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). "Liu Hai Cuts Firewood" is a classic example of the art form, telling the tale of a romance between a destitute young man and a "fox fairy."

While the original renditions of "huaguxi" operas were performed using classical instruments, such as flutes and fiddles, the new versions feature elements of modern music, including rock and hip-hop, according to "Liu Hai Cuts Firewood" director Chen Wei.

The style of dance used in the opera has undergone some changes as well, with hip-hop and tap dance moves integrated into the opera's choreography, Chen said.

Operas have largely gone out of fashion in China, particularly among young people, who prefer to spend their money on 3D blockbuster films and other forms of modern entertainment, Wang said.

"Chinese dramatists have strived to make efforts to boost the popularity of Chinese opera and get it out of this dilemma," Wang said.

Xiang Yong, deputy head of the Institute for Cultural Industries at Peking University, suggested combining traditional cultural elements with those of the modern era and integrating new technology as ways to help traditional Chinese culture adapt to the international market in the future.

Zhang Ligong, artistic director of "Liu Hai Cuts Firewood," said that traditional arts should be "inherited, not cloned," adding that the revision and modification of older operas has injected them with new artistic value and vitality.

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