Come 2020, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay is set to launch Xiqu – Chinese Opera Series to present different forms of xiqu (Chinese Opera) throughout the year. Literally translating to musical theatre, xiqu is one of the oldest art forms in the world and tells timeless stories deeply rooted in Chinese culture and traditions. The new programme series will present a variety of large-scale and intimate xiqu performances, in addition to the free xiqu programmes during Esplanade’s annual festivals, Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts and Moonfest – A Mid-Autumn Celebration.
Says Mimi Yee, Head, Community Programmes, The Esplanade Co Ltd: “Xiqu is a rich form of theatre that combines drama, dance, music and literary arts and can be enjoyed by everyone. The stories told through xiqu often stem from values of loyalty, filial piety, benevolence and righteousness, which are values still relevant to the society today. Many xiqu troupes are working hard to preserve and inject new life into this art form, and we want to do our part to promote xiqu by having year-round programmes to reach audiences of different age groups.
“We are heartened to have the support of our audiences for our Chinese Opera programmes all these years, and we are committed to continue growing this pool of loyal audiences whose tastes and appreciation of this art form have expanded and become more sophisticated. With our new Xiqu Series, Esplanade will be able to introduce a greater variety of both traditional and contemporary xiqu performances by Singapore and overseas opera artists and companies to our audiences and engage them through activities such as talks and workshops. For young audiences, we will also work with the troupes to present performances specially designed to help them get to know and appreciate Chinese Opera, whenever possible.”
The first programme to be presented under this new series is Four Dreams in the Camellia Hall, comprising four signature Kun Opera works performed by Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe (China) at the Esplanade Theatre from 26th to 29th March 2020. Written by Ming Dynasty playwright Tang Xianzu—often referred to as William Shakespeare of the East—the four masterpieces are, A Pair of Purple Hairpins, A Dream under the Southern Bough, The Tale of Handan and The Peony Pavilion and they will be performed over four consecutive evenings. Those who enjoy theatre and xiqu can look forward to experience these famous classics that have provided inspiration for and been adapted and reprised in many different art forms and genres. It is a rare, not-to-be-missed opportunity for theatre goers in Singapore to see the work in its complete collection.
In Jul 2020, Jiangsu Performing Arts Group Wuxi Opera Troupe will be staging two iconic Wuxi Opera titles, The Pearl Pagoda and The Lost Prince at the Esplanade Theatre. Rarely presented in Southeast Asia, Wuxi Opera is one of the major Chinese Opera forms in East China, alongside the more commonly seen Yue Opera and Huangmei Opera. Plum Blossom Award winner and Jiangsu Performing Arts Group Wuxi Opera Troupe’s leader Zhou Dongliang will be starring in The Pearl Pagoda, as Fang Qing, grandson of a former prime minister, whose family had since fallen into hard times. Against all odds, Fang came out tops in the civil examination, and returned home to get married to his cousin who had helped him. Zhou will also be playing the lead role in The Lost Prince, as the lost Prince Wang Hua.
“There are over 300 different Chinese Opera forms recorded to date, and audiences in Singapore are probably familiar with about 20 of these genres which are more regularly presented here. Through the Xiqu Series, our audience can also expect to see rare opera forms like Wuxi Opera, Shao Opera, Gaojia Opera, and Liyuan Opera in our Theatre as well as our new 550-seat Singtel Waterfront Theatre which will open in 2021. Xiqu performances in a more intimate setting will present audiences a whole new experience of watching Chinese Opera. So when our waterfront theatre is ready, we will be able to present a greater variety of xiqu performances more regularly at Esplanade,” added Mimi.
Besides watching performances, Xiqu also aims to help audiences better understand and appreciate xiqu, with the Esplanade planning to conduct talks, masterclasses, workshops and even performances specially catered for young audiences, in collaboration with the international artists. Similarly, Esplanade will also work with both Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe and Jiangsu Performing Arts Group Wuxi Opera Troupe to conduct free talks with demonstrations for the public when they are in Singapore. As part of Esplanade’s Community Engagement programme, the troupes will also be performing Chinese Opera excerpts at suitable social service organisations in Singapore.
Ready to discover Chinese Opera? Your journey begins with the Esplanade next March.
Xiqu – Chinese Opera begins in 2020, with Four Dreams in the Camellia Hall running from 26th to 29th March 2020 at the Esplanade Theatre. For more information, visit the Esplanade’s website here