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Reviving Chinese Kunqu Opera Promising
Judging from excellent performances by young Chinese artists at the Kunqu Opera Festival, prospects look promising for reviving the traditional opera style, according to Dai Yinglu of the Arts Department of China's Ministry of Culture.

The Kunqu Opera Festival debuted on Oct. 27 in east China's Jiangsu Province. It assembled nearly 100 young artists from China's six national Kunqu troupes, among whom 42 were competing for the national awards, the official told Xinhua in Suzhou on Thursday.

Experts and scholars in the field noticed some young artists have established their performing styles, winning high audience favor.

Some young artists, with their solid Kunqu knowledge and skills, had also gained wide acclaim from professionals. Dai hoped they would further study Chinese history, and better understand the deep culture underlying Kunqu opera.

Wang Shiyu, a member of the jury committee for the competition, said one third of the Chinese national opera awards in the past were given to Kunqu artists, which demonstrated Kunqu's great artistic power and value. This festival held at the start of the 21st century was a concrete step taken by the country to revive Kunqu, and a good opportunity to discover talent and popularize the art.

Kunqu with its 700 years of history, is at risk of declining due to its obscure language and precise structure. Chinese cultural authorities have made great efforts to save, collect and revise the surviving Kunqu scripts since 1949.

Lin Jifan, a well-known Chinese artist who won the top national prize for Kunqu performance, said generations of Chinese artists had dedicated their whole lives to popularizing the opera form. Chinese Kunqu troupes currently staged performances and regularly gave lessons to ordinary people and students.

"The audiences for Kunqu in China have become younger and younger," said Lin, noting that people were beginning to adopt modern features in Kunqu production, such as several troupes joining together to promote a single performance, or masters invited to give lessons.

In May 2001, Chinese Kunqu opera was listed as "an oral masterpiece and intangible heritage of humanity" by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

(People's Daily November 1, 2002)

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