World premiere for original Chinese opera

Zhu Ying
After three years of preparation, original opera "Shennong, A Legendary Ruler" will have its world premiere at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center on August 9 and 10.
Zhu Ying

After three years of preparation, original opera “Shennong, A Legendary Ruler” will have its world premiere at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center on August 9 and 10.

Shennong is a mythological Chinese deity and venerated as a sage ruler of prehistoric China. It is said that Shennong taught ancient Chinese the practice of agriculture, as well as the use of herbal drugs.

To test their properties and medical value, Shennong personally tasted hundreds of herbs. His contribution boosted the development of traditional Chinese medicine.

Produced by Shanghai Opera House, the original work tells Shennong’s story and shows our ancestor’s courage and spirit of self-sacrifice.

“The opera is a journey of finding our roots,” said Chen Wei, director of the opera. “We see Shennong as a human rather than a deity, and endow the figure with human nature in the opera.

“We hope that our opera goes global. Foreigners might not quite understand the meaning of the lyrics just like when we see Italian operas but they will be affected by Shennong’s spirit through music and stage design.”

“Shennong, A Legendary Ruler” is one of a few original Chinese operas focusing on mythology, which is the cultural root of national spirit.

Jin Fuzai, 77, composed music for the opera. His works, such as the music for the animations “Three Monks,” “The Magic Lotus Lantern” and “Prince Nezha’s Triumph Against Dragon King,” are remembered by many from their childhood.

“It is my first time to compose an opera,” said the septuagenarian. “I was happy while nervous at the early stage of creation.

“Without lines, the art form of opera raises a high requirement for music, which needs to be dramatic. Mythology is a very appropriate theme for an opera as it ignites imagination and gives more possibilities to music.”

Since the story is about a Chinese myth, many Chinese elements can be found in the opera. The costumes are designed by Li Ruiding and his team, who carried out research in the Shennong Valley in Hunan Province. Rainbows, winding paths and plants are all the sources of their inspiration.

Info

Date: August 9-10, 7:15pm

Tickets: 80-580 yuan

Venue: Shanghai Oriental Art Center

Address: 425 Dingxiang Rd, Pudong New Area

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