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Preview: Painted Skin – An Opera in Concert by the Singapore Chinese Orchestra

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SHANGHAI – Together with the Shanghai International Arts Festival and Singapore Huayi Festival, the Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO) has jointly commissioned the creation of a brand new Chinese Opera set to premiere at the 2018 edition of the Shanghai International Arts Festival, in conjunction with China’s Major Performing Arts Group (MPAG).

Titled Painted Skin – An Opera in Concert, the opera takes inspiration from Pu Songling’s Chinese classic Strange Tales of Liao Zhai, in which “Painted Skin” has remained one of its most memorable and renowned tales, adapted for television and even a film. In the tale, a devoted scholar finds a beautiful woman alone in the rain, and gives her his umbrella out of pity. Unbeknownst to him, the woman is in fact, a ghost who has painted herself a human skin, in search of a gentle and loving man on earth. When the two begin to entangle themselves romantically, only tragedy is fated to befall the couple.

This new production is a reinterpretation of the tale, and will be presented through an opera in concert, mixing the story’s mysterious narrative with music and drama to reveal an inner world of flamboyant, greed and hypocritical personas that lurk beneath society’s skin today, illustrating illustrates the conflicting relationship between human, devil and righteousness. In modernising the tale, the production will be presented in four parts through the narratives of “borrowing umbrellas”, “returning umbrellas”, “playing with umbrellas” and “breaking umbrellas”, using an umbrella to cleverly enact the dramatic shifts of the musical opera.

The production team comprises renowned composer Hao Wei Ya, director Yi Liming, well-known scriptwriter Wang Yifei, as well as SCO music director and conductor Tsung Yeh, along with SCO. The cast will comprise of three rising young vocalists – mezzo-soprano Dong Fang, soprano Xu Lei and Liu Zheng, who will play the ghost, each of them portraying the emotional furore between man and ghost using a mix of ancient language, various vocal singing techniques and contemporary stage performance.

Describing “New Chinese Opera” as a form of music and drama curation based on Chinese traditional cultures, Director Yi Liming aims to retain the cultural beauty of opera through the use of this form in both the dramatic expression and the stage presentation, keeping its universality as a form, yet continually evolving for a modern audience. If you find yourself in Shanghai this October, join the SCO and witness the world premiere of this brand new, modern Chinese Opera, as it brings a strange tale to musical life, and unveils the follies of humanity today.

Painted Skin – An Opera in Concert plays on 23rd October 2018 at the Shanghai Oriental Art Centre, Concert Hall. For tickets, visit their website here

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