by Liang Xizhi
LONDON, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- With lavishly embroidered costumes, elaborate makeup and acrobatics, the China National Peking Opera Company (CNPOC) performed Mei Lanfang's masterpiece "The Phoenix Returns Home" on Sunday night to mark the 123rd anniversary since his birth.
The Phoenix Returns Home is a romantic farce, a tale of love, manipulation and mistaken identity. It was first performed by Mei in 1929 and is now one of the most popular of all the Peking Operas. It's packed with drama, comedy and music, and provides for a perfect evening of entertainment.
During the performance, audiences are immersed in the intriguing art of Peking Opera and can go on a cultural adventure into Chinese traditional artistic heritage from a world-class company. The magnificent costumes and the artful combination of dance, mime, music and acrobatics provides a source of wonder for audiences of all ages.
Li Shengsu leads the cast in this light romantic comedy that tells an ancient Chinese story of marriage. The multiple arias are done in the style of Mei's school of performance.
Li is a third generation Dan (women's role) performer of Mei's style, a student of Mei's son, Mei Baojiu. With her dignified stage presence, the finesse of her performance, and her sweet voice, Li's mastery of her craft brings life to the story of this beautiful girl living in ancient China.
The characters of the Chou (clown) role provide extra entertainment and drama. The misbehavior, mistakes and mischiefs of the "clowns" are a part of the plot's twists and turns, done with a typical Chinese sense of humor.
Li said that in the play, the happiness of the young woman about to marry the one she loves, her loss and frustration at the change of events, and the shyness and cherishing after misunderstanding is dismissed and a happy marriage comes, all of these emotional transformations have been presented in details.
"I believe the fun and tenderness of this Chinese classic comedy will bring happiness to the British audience and win their love," she said.
"As the British love Shakespeare, Chinese are also proud of our classic theater. Peking Opera is the most representative format of traditional Chinese theater and has been regarded as a 'national treasure.' It epitomizes the Chinese tradition, value, custom, national characters, meanwhile, it also represents various forms of Chinese arts," said Li, stressing that the two pieces chosen to stage in Britain fully presented the charm of this art form.
British audience member Sanjula Sharma told Xinhua she heard about the play from her friends and simply wanted to know a little bit more about Chinese culture by watching the opera.
"I haven't seen it, I have seen many Western plays, but this is different, this is the first time for me. I think it is amazing...It is beautiful, the performance is excellent," she said.
This is the fourth time the CNPOC has brought productions to Britain, following tours in 2005, 2015 and 2016.