Library adds music to poetry

Live performers attract a packed audience to listen to ancient texts set to operatic melodies in a show to spark more interest in reading.
Library adds music to poetry
Xiao Yunzhe

Peking Opera artist Chen Shengjie performs "Drinking Alone under the Moon" at Shanghai Library on Tuesday night.

A live show combining traditional Chinese poems and opera was staged at Shanghai Library on Tuesday night. Opera artists sang famous poems such as "Drinking Along with the Moon" and "Prelude to Water Melody" to Peking Opera and Kunqu Opera tunes.

"The Book of Songs" performed by famous Peking Opera artist Wang Peiyu kicked off the show, drawing rounds of applause.

The catalog hall of the library on the first floor was packed at 7:30pm and library staff had to allocate some of the audience members to the second floor.

A library official said they opened booking on its WeChat account last Friday.

“We offered 125 tickets, all free of charge,” the official said. “They were all booked out within six minutes.”

Xu Yingsong took his 8-year-old daughter to the event. He said the daily routine had made it difficult for him to find spare time to read, but his daughter loves reading. She was the one who insisted they come.

“Chinese poems and traditional operas share similar cultural roots,” said Xu. “Some of the poems also had melodies when they were composed thousands of years ago.”

Xu said such fusion can intrigue people who love Chinese opera and poems.

“I see a good number of the audience are attracted by Wang,” said Xu. “They may start to like poems after watching the performance.”

Chen Chao, curator of the library, said he hopes the audience can appreciate the beauty of Chinese poems and literature from another angle through the performance.

“The aspiration of the library has never changed,” said Chen. “That is to attract more people to read.”

Chen said the digital divide created by the Internet has made the task more urgent.

“Reading is becoming superficial as people receive too many fragments of content online,” Chen told Shanghai Daily.

But Chen also said he is optimistic about the future. He said a good number of TV shows related to reading and literature are popular with young people which is a good sign of people’s enthusiasm about reading.

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