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Beijing to Add Two Opera Houses

Plans for two new traditional opera theaters, to be located in Beijing's prime downtown area, are being put in motion to enhance the country's cultural heritage.

Using investment of 800 million yuan (US$96.5 million), the China Grand Theater of Peking Opera will have a 1,200 audience capacity, according to Wu Jiang, president of the China Peking Opera Troupe.

"We will be submitting the construction design to the municipal planning committee for approval soon, and the resettlement project, which cost 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million), was completed at the end of last month," said Wu.

The theater will cover an area of 100,000 square metres and will be located where the western Second Ring Road meets Ping'an Avenue.

"I hope the theater will become China's best known Peking Opera theater," said Zhao Shucheng, vice-president of the troupe.

Photography, sculpture and art exhibitions reflecting Peking Opera's 200-year history will be held outside the theater.

There will also be an exhibition of objects and dresses used by famous Peking Opera artists such as Mei Lanfang.

As well as Peking Opera, the China Grand Theater of Beijing Opera will also show other types of Chinese opera, ballet and song and dance drama, according to Wu.

To attract more foreign audiences, English captions will be provided in the newly established theater.

"We are also considering facilities for simultaneous interpretation," said Wu.

Wu said he is confident that art troupes from both home and abroad will be flocking to his theater in three years, when it is completed.

The 95-year-old theatre Jixiang Theater, is going to be rebuilt in Wangfujing, one of the capital's most prosperous trading areas, with an investment of 300 million yuan (US$36.2 million).

In 1994, the original theatre was dismantled and a shopping center was built in its place.

The shopping centre has now been removed to make space for the renovated theatre.

Beijing now has a variety of traditional opera theaters, including the Chang'an Theater for full-length traditional operas, and the Liyuan Theatre for operas featuring acrobatic fighting.

The Chang'an Theater was shut temporarily earlier this month for a month to change the seats in it, some of which were damaged due to wear-and-tear.

Peking Opera recently witnessed a boost in popularity as audience numbers and income figures prove.

(China Daily 07/24/2001)

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