A scene from The Peony Pavilion, a production of the Four Dreams series by Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe, which received the special award at the 29th Shanghai Magnolia Stage Performance Awards on March 22. (Photo provided to China Daily)
Shanghai troupe praised for taking traditional Chinese opera to the world
The performance team of Four Dreams, a series of Kunqu plays by the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe, received a special Magnolia Award on March 22. The Shanghai Magnolia Stage Performance Awards is an annual celebration of live theater art in the city, and the 29th edition was held at the Shanghai Grand Theatre.
A total of 60 productions from 24 categories, including Peking Opera, Kunqu Opera, musicals and dance theater, were in the running for the prize this year.
The Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe produced a series of productions of Four Dreams by Tang Xianzu (1550-1616) in 2016, the year that marked the 400th anniversary of his death.
Tang is often described as China's William Shakespeare because of his importance in Chinese literary history. The Four Dreams series of plays is considered his most important theatrical creation, and it is named as such because dreams play a crucial role in the plots.
The 2016 production of Four Dreams was one of the company's largest-ever projects. That year, the production held 60 performances all over the world. In 2018, the plays toured Austria and Russia and participated in the Performing Arts Festival in Berlin, Germany, winning high praise from audiences and critics.
The Peony Pavilion, a celebrated repertoire in Kunqu Opera, is the best known of the Four Dreams. While the play is frequently performed all over China, the other three, A Dream Under the Southern Bough, Record of Handan and The Purple Hairpin, are rarely staged.
"We are a leading Kunqu Opera troupe in China, and we felt obliged to revive these masterpieces, and we are capable of accomplishing that," said Zhang Yongliang, deputy director of the troupe.
The organizers of the Magnolia prizes praised the performing team of Four Dreams for "promoting Chinese culture overseas, and introducing to the global theater world the unique charm of traditional Chinese opera".
Seven hundred artists have won in the different categories of the Magnolia Award since it was established in 1989.