Shanghai Kun Opera Pleasantly Surprises Cologne

The Shanghai Kun Opera's full-length version of The Palace of Eternal Youth was concluded successfully in rapturous applause at the Cologne Opera House.

The Palace of Eternal Youth on the stage of Colonge Opera House

On the evening of the 8th November, the Shanghai Kun Opera's full-length version of The Palace of Eternal Youth was concluded successfully in rapturous applause at the Cologne Opera House, Germany. The full-length version of The Palace of Eternal Youth was divided into The Pledge, The Dance of the Rainbow and Feathery Garments, The Mutiny at Mawei and The Lovers' Reunion four acts and was performed over four consecutive nights from the 5th till the 8th of November. The show was gilded by an all-star lineup, which included "the doyen of Guan Sheng" - Cai Zhengren, and "the doyenne of Guimen Dan" - Zhang Jingxian.

Following the success of Richard Wagner's 15-hour-long masterpiece The Ring of the Nibelung by Cologne Opera House in Shanghai, which created a new milestone in the Chinese opera scene, the Cologne Opera House returns the warm hospitality by inviting the local key art troupe Shanghai Kun Opera to Cologne. This grand premiere is the first time traditional Chinese Kun Opera has made an appearance with such a large-scale production on the German stage.

Cai Zhengren and Zhang Jingxian are making curtain calls

On the reception banquet before the show, the mayor of Cologne Mr. Jürgen Roters, Minister Counselor of Chinese Embassy in German Li Xin, and the head of the Shanghai Kun Opera delegation Shi Jian delivered speeches. Mr. Roters began his speech with “tonight we will open the door of Chinese traditional art for you”. They said that the event brought an opportunity to the audience in Cologne to appreciate the kun opera, one of the oldest art forms in the world. In 2012, Cologne will hold a series of activities to celebrate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Germany, and this kun opera's masterpiece was staged at the Cologne Opera House as a prelude of the celebration. The Chinese Ministry of Culture also regarded it as the prologue of the Year of Chinese Culture in Germany.

The differences between the cultures and languages became the main barrier for the German audience to appreciate the traditional Chinese art. To solve the problem, before the performances, Wu Promotion specially invited a renowned host and critic to introduce Chinese kun opera and the story of The Palace of Eternal Youth to the audience with performers demonstrating on the spot. During the performances, the German subtitles were shown to help the audience to understand the plots.

From left: Wu Zezhou, Tang Sifu, Uwe Eric Laufenberg(President of Colonge Opera House),
Cai Zhengren, Jürgen Roters(Mayor of Cologne), Zhang Jingxian, Wu Jiatong, Wang Xiting

Kun opera is believed to be the origin of all the other Chinese operas. With a long history of over 600 years, it was selected into the World Non-material Cultural Heritage List by the UNESCO in 2001. The 12-hour long The Palace of Eternal Youth, written by Hong Sheng during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), is the result of painstaking efforts of innumerable kun opera artists. Since its first performance by Shanghai Kun Opera in 2007, it has won the heart of Chinese audience. And after much effort, this masterpiece was finally staged in Cologne.

With its smooth and elegant tune, beautiful and exquisite dressing, unique and comprehensive expression and wonderful plots, the opera deeply impressed the audience in Cologne. Although the love story of Li Longji (reigned 712-756), a Tang Dynasty emperor, and his concubine Yang Yuhuan happened in ancient China, the audience understood the plots and puns in the lines easily. In the four-night performance, the audience got more and more excited, with cheer after cheer. Every night, the performers took their curtain-calls again and again. The well known artist Cai Zhengren was quite moved by the hospitality of the audience.

This event was well received by the government leaders, artists and the general public. Reviewed by critics as “the best opera of the year” the show was an overall success.