Kunqu Opera “A Dream of Red Mansions” up for top award

BEIJING, Oct. 17 — The Chinese classic work of literature “A Dream of Red Mansions” has been adapted into a number of stage and screen versions over the years. Artists from the Northern Kunqu Opera Theatre put their own spin on the classic back in 2011. And now the triennial China Arts Festival is recognising their work.
A 200-year-old literary classic meets the 600-year-old Kunqu Opera.
The novel “A Dream of Red Mansions” written by Cao Xueqin some 200 years ago has been hailed as one of China’s “Four Great Classical Novels”. The story revolves around the rise and fall of an aristocrat family and, as an extension to this, of the dynasty itself. The best-known stroyline from the piece is the tragic love story between Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu, a couple forced apart by Jia’s family – Romeo and Juliet-style.
In two acts, the Kunqu version lasts a whopping five hours and took the cast and crew of the Northern Kunqu Opera Theatre more than six years to perfect, showcasing their finished product back in 2011.
“Kunqu Opera is a treasure of our cultural heritage. In fact, there are 26 depictions of Kunqu in the novel,” said Yang Fengyi, president of Northern Kunqu Opera Theatre.
“It’s been a challenging and also ground-breaking experience.”
The cast of “A Dream of Red Mansions” includes award-winning actors and actresses from Kunqu theatres around the country. The average age of the performers is 26. Their efforts certainly paid off as the Kunqu version of “A Dream of Red Mansions” made quite a splash.
“A Dream of Red Mansions is a great work that covers various dimensions of feudal China, including the political, social and cultural, and even medicine and food. The cast put in a tremendous amount of hard work all for their love of traditional opera. We want to do it justice,” said performer Zhu Bingzhen.
The show is up for the Wenhua Awards at the 10th China Arts Festival. Two other contenders are also up for the most prestigious prize for this genre of performance.